Long Beach Arena’s First MMA Fight is Bellator’s Biggest Fight Card


Photo courtesy of Bellator

With decades as the region’s premiere large-scale entertainment venue and a $7 million “repurposing” nearly ready for its great unveil, the Long Beach Arena will this weekend add yet another chapter to its diverse portfolio of events it can accommodate–MMA fights.

More known for its rich musical history than its sports accolades, the 45,000 square foot space has hosted volleyball competitions, Disney On Ice productions and was home for the short-lived Ice Dogs hockey team, but it has never attracted the large-scale wrestling, boxing or MMA matches that other tourism centers claim.

This Saturday, that will all change as MMA tournament promoters Bellator bring their first ever fight card to the Arena, an event that has the chance to put Long Beach on the radar for others looking to host similar sporting events. 

“Sporting events bring a diversified crowd,” said Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center’s General Manager Charlie Beirne, who has previously worked in Atlantic City, New Jersey where many boxing matches occur. “The demographics are all over the board and it brings more economic impact to the city.”

MMA is the fastest growing sport in the nation and an economic impact study conducted during the efforts to legalize MMA fighting in New York two years ago projected the state would generate $23 million annually between 70 events and that events in New York City and Buffalo would drive $1.4 million in visitor spending in both.

bellatormmafightLong Beach’s November 2 event was originally planned as Bellator’s premiere foyer into the Pay Per View world and was to feature the long-awaited showdown between Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz, which would have been aired live to those who bought into the TV program.

Unfortunately, Ortiz fractured his neck last week, forcing the cancellation of the November 2 fight card and leaving the Bellator team scrambling for a new lineup. Last Friday, Bellator announced that it was pulling the event from PPV and moving it to Spike TV, where it will air live and free to fans around the country starting at 9PM. 

According to Bellator, the night will now be headlined by the anticipated rematch between Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler and former Bellator Champion Eddie Alvarez, along with an Interim Light Heavyweight Title fight between King Mo and Emanuel Newton, as well as a Bellator Featherweight Title fight between Pat Curran and Daniel Straus. With three title fights featuring the promotion’s biggest stars, it will still be the biggest fight card in Bellator history.

“Bellator is from Newport Beach so I think they feel comfortable having these events in their backyard and hopefully we can have a partnership moving forward,” said Bierne. “After this successful event–which all indications it will be successful–maybe we can be their home turf.”

Though the event is not sold out, Bierne said that between online sales and a large walkup contingent, he is expecting a full house of 11,000 and change.

“MMA is always a nice draw. Great talent and great athletes,” Bierne said. “We’re looking forward to having them on Saturday.”

For more information on Bellator’s November 2 fight card, including to purchase tickets, visit bellator.com

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Sarah Bennett is a contributor to the Hi-lo and the editor-at-large at the Long Beach Post. She is also a professor at Santa Ana College where she was once a student before transferring to USC to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sarah has written about music, art, food and beer in local, national and international publications for over a decade. An L.A. native and longtime resident of Long Beach, she is the co-founder of Long Beach Zine Fest and managing editor at theLAnd magazine. She never sleeps.