By: Albert Miller – I have mixed emotions about Bellator potentially coming to Penn State University. On one hand, I’m always thrilled to see Mixed Martial Arts making its way into the Keystone State, on the other: I’m only mildly annoyed that Bellator had to wait until I’d left State College to entertain such a thing. Bellator MMA’s stock has been rising in my book quite a bit over the last few weeks; they’ve been grabbing up free agents instead of raiding the legends class. According to reports, Bellator is in talks with the Penn State University (PSU) to highlight a card featuring “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis and Ed Ruth. Given the potentially untapped talent pool that could be cultivated from the Penn State Wrestling team, I feel that this is a good move.
Having been a State College, Pennsylvania resident, I put my thinking cap on about a potential Bellator MMA card and the logic began to flow. There are a lot of variables still in the air about the logistics of where and when, but there is also a lot of logic to be considered that will kind of give you an idea about what is happening. I can tell you that all of the pieces are in place, and if they come together, it will be something to see. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know about a potential Bellator MMA card coming to Penn State University:
The event would likely take place at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Bryce Jordan Center (known as the BJC to students and locals) is really the only building in State College that can handle the event. While there are event spaces on campus, the Bryce Jordan Center is the only one in town that is equipped for such an assembly in terms of facility and size. In the theme of Bellator MMA holding a card to highlight Phil Davis and Ed Ruth, then what better building to hold the event than the home field for the Penn State Wrestling team? In addition to hosting the wrestling team (among other sports), the Bryce Jordan Center is also the destination for concerts, professional wrestling, and large scale assemblies in the area.
The event would have to take place between September and May. I heard a story once that during a home football game, State College, PA is the third largest city (behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh respectively) due to transient population. I have never been able to find any data to support this claim, but any business person who has broken ground within the walls of State College will tell you that the peak season of economy is when classes are in session. Even though State College has direct access to areas like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and even Altoona, the best time to hold an event is when the students have taken residence in the town. This isn’t ground breaking news, but by process of elimination, we’ve narrowed the timeframe down to an eight month window. What also needs to be considered is that Bellator MMA will hold an event on a Friday, and that would need to coincide with the athletics and event schedule for Friday evenings.
The event would not be the first event in “Happy Valley.” Let me start by saying that if Bellator MMA does promote at Penn State, the event will likely be billed as “from University Park,” or possibly “State College.” University Park is the patch of real estate that the actual campus is on. State College is the town that surrounds the collegiate institution. There are also smaller towns that contribute to the greater State College area: College Township, Benner Township, Patton Township, Boalsburg, Lemont, Ferguson, just to name a few. Happy Valley is the blanket endearment for the entire area. Now that we have semantics out of the way, Bellator MMA would not be the first event to promote in the area. That distinction belongs to an event called “Mayhem on the Mountain,” and the card included International Fight League (IFL) veteran “Brutal” Brendan Barrett, Bellator MMA veteran Lewis “The Beast” Rumsey, and Tyler “The Daywalker” Saltsman (who was a onetime opponent of current UFC Bantamweight champion Cody “No Love” Garbrandt). The event was an outdoor card at the Tussey Mountain Ski Resort, and has been the only event (that I’ve been able to find) in the area to date. The honor that Bellator MMA would get to have and to hold is that it would be the first televised event to come out of State College, Pennsylvania.
Penn State Wrestling Head Coach Cael Sanderson has wrestling experience against UFC Middleweight contender Yoel Romero and UFC Veteran Mike Van Arsdale. The point of this tidbit is that Penn State has more ties to Mixed Martial Arts than most people will give it credit for. Cael Sanderson has done great things for Penn State Wrestling, and even he has ties to major mixed martial arts. Both Phil Davis and Ed Ruth have trained with Sifu Ryan Gruhn (head coach of Central Pennsylvania Mixed Martial Arts), and on the local level Os Omo-Osagie (Penn State Boxing Coach) has fought locally and regionally. Across the street from the Penn State University is the gym that forged Tyler Saltsman and Ethan “The Wolverine” Goss. UFC Light Heavyweight athlete Pat Cummins is a Penn State Wrestler himself. With the additions of Ruth and Davis to the Bellator MMA roster, Penn State University is building an MMA tradition without even being aware of it.
Having been a resident of State College, PA, I can tell you that the town is absolutely fanatical about their sports. It’s the reason why opposing football teams are surprised by how loud Beaver Stadium is during football games, it’s why the Women’s Volleyball team has done so well, it’s why Penn State has sent athletes to the Olympics to represent their entire country. I can’t say for sure that Bellator MMA promoting an event at Penn State University will be an overwhelming success, but I sure do like the odds.
When a promotion enters a new city for the first time, it will face one of two challenges: it will either be welcomed with open arms, or have to win over an entire populace with one event. Bellator MMA couldn’t select a city with the momentum of lucks swinging more in their favor. Even if half the city didn’t enjoy MMA, they may certainly want to see an event featuring two former wrestlers. As is the case with Ruth and Davis, the Penn State Wrestling team is ripe with potential talent; getting their foot in the day at Penn State now may be the very catalyst that Bellator MMA needs to keep ahead of the free agent curve. Regardless of how (if) it happens, I have a feeling it will be an event at the beginning of something huge.