In June of this year, Scott Coker replaced Bjorn Rebney as the CEO of Bellator. And after just a few months, he announced the company had already changed its strategy regarding event-planning. Specifically, Bellator will begin hosting three or four especially large events on Saturdays each year, ensuring the cards aren’t watered down. The November 15th event starring Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar will function as the new format prototype.
Coker’s strategy when piecing together fight cards is to offer something for everyone. “We’re going to do some fun fights, but also some hardcore MMA fights that the hardcore fans are going to want to see,” Coker explained. “We’ve got no restrictions. We’ll do it all.” The promotion will continue hosting its monthly Friday night fights live on Spike.
Naturally, the CEO’s most relevant challenge is attracting new talent. “We’re looking for the next T-Wood (Woodley) or Ronda Rousey or Daniel Cormier or Luke Rockhold,” Coker said. And now, in an interview with Marcos Villegas of Fighthub, Coker says the organization has not only continued taking steps to sign new talent, it has plans to make something important happen soon.
When asked whether any big signings would happen in the next few weeks, he answers, “You know what? We will, but that’s top secret. I can’t tell you.” He also ensures, “When the free-agency market hits, we’re going to probably make a bid for some of the top athletes.” Building a talent pool is familiar ground for Coker. When he was involved in the birth of Strikeforce, the organization only had four fighters signed. “We had Frank Shamrock, Cung Le, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thompson. So we kind of built it as we went.”
Some have speculated Bellator might try to distinguish itself from the UFC with a tournament format. But Coker isn’t interested in churning out meaningless tournaments. “I think there’s a time and place to do tournaments. But you’d better have . . . the best fighters . . . . I don’t think you just do tournaments after tournaments after tournaments after tournaments. Because at that point, it’s just like a volume, but you’re not putting on fights that the fans want to see.”
Building an organization that can truly rival the UFC is a challenge. It might be impossible. But Coker is an experienced and extremely likeable promoter, and he has the right idea. Don’t behave like a sideshow. Behave like a legitimate organization. “We want to be promoters who put on relevant fights. Fights that drive the television needle. That drive the media to come support the fights. And to put butts in seats.”