Scott Coker Discusses Lightweight, Featherweight Title Implications for Bellator 147 Bouts

By Tristen Critchfield Dec 2, 2015
Bellator MMA will close out its year with an event that could go a long way toward shaping the title picture in both the lightweight and featherweight divisions in 2016. Promotion president Scott Coker recently spoke with to help break down the possible outcomes that could emerge from Friday’s Bellator 147 card, which takes place at the San Jose State University Arena and airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.

Sherdog: Will a Josh Thomson victory over Pablo Villaseca at Bellator 147 warrant him getting a lightweight title shot after just two Belllator MMA appearances? Or does he need to earn a victory over a more established 155-pound contender first?

Coker: I don’t like to prejudge before the event, but I think definitely we’ll take a look at the performance, and if Josh looks extremely good and fights well, he’ll be somebody we’ll consider. Those are all decisions we’ll make after the fight.

Sherdog: What has been the philosophy for matchmaking regarding Thomson in Bellator thus far? For example, Villaseca is just 0-1 in the promotion and facing an accomplished veteran in Friday’s main event.

Coker: The kid’s [Villaseca] 10-1 now. I’m sure he’s developed into a more well-rounded and a more experienced fighter [since he last competed in Bellator]. [Matchmaker Rich Chou] felt really good about it, and on any given night anything can happen in MMA. We’ll find out how he can hold up against Josh or how Josh can hold up against him, because Josh has had a few bumps in the road recently. I think he’s a different fighter, and his heart’s into it. And he’s back, but he’s got to go prove it.

Sherdog: How much has signing with Bellator seemed to rejuvenate Thomson?

Coker: Just to take it back to [2006], he was one of the first fighters that we signed. We signed Frank Shamrock, we signed Cung Le, we signed Josh Thomson and we signed Gilbert Melendez. Those were like the four building blocks of Strikeforce to start in the very first year. And this was before we had no TV deal, we had no sponsorship. If you wanted to see a Strikeforce event you had to come live to the arena. We were just a live event company only at that point. He had some great fights at Strikeforce. He had that trilogy with Gilbert that was probably one of the three greatest trilogies in MMA that I can think of. There’s a certain comfort level I think he felt working with us and fighting at home here [in San Jose] and not having to travel halfway around the globe to get a big fight in. I think there’s a certain familiarity that these athletes come to count on and depend on, and I think that’s what he had with us here.

Sherdog: Georgi Karakhanyan was supposed to fight for the featherweight title at Bellator 138 before he suffered an injury, and Daniel Weichel nearly won the crown in his place. Does the winner of their co-main event showdown at Bellator 147 automatically become the next No. 1 contender at 145 pounds?

Coker: Like you said, we promised Georgi a title shot before. If he beats Daniel decisively, I think he’s right up there. Does it mean he gets the next shot? Maybe, maybe not. That division has got some great athletes and we’ve seen some great wars in that weight class. Georgi was promised the fight before and maybe we’ll make a decision right after his performance and not shuffle the deck too much and let him take the next shot.

Sherdog: Patricky Freire said he asked to face Derek Anderson before he fought Saad Awad in August, but Anderson initially turned the fight down before finally accepting the rematch at Bellator 147. What do you know about these negotiations?

Coker: No, I don’t [know anything about it]. I look at both these guys; they’re tough kids and they have great records. Derek’s got tremendous height advantage, but other than that, I look at their records…you’re gonna have some fireworks. The ‘Pitbull’ brothers always bring it, and we’re looking forward to an exciting fight on Friday night.

Sherdog: Have you had a chance to speak with the “Pitbull” brothers and Will Brooks at length following their alleged altercation prior to Bellator 145 in St. Louis?

Coker: That incident is still being dealt with, so we haven’t finalized what we’re gonna do. We’re definitely getting a little bit closer, and we’ll definitely have something before the end of the year. I hate to comment on that because that was really an unfortunate situation, and I think we learned from this incident and I think the fighters involved definitely did. Hopefully that’s a one-time incident and everybody can just move forward.

Sherdog: While you weren’t happy with the incident, how much does it serve to increase interest for a potential Will Brooks-Patricky Freire lightweight title matchup?

Coker: I think from a public standpoint, there’s definitely a lot of heat on that fight. I know Will, that’s all he’s been talking about since that night is that he wants to fight him. It’s really half of it is going to be up to Patricky on Friday night. He’s got to come out with a victory and he’s got to come out with a decisive victory, make sure he looks the part. You’ve still got Michael Chandler in the mix. And then Josh Thomson, let’s see how he looks. There’s some title implications here, and we’re going to wait to see how the cards unfold. Then we’ll reshuffle the deck and move forward with some other fights in the future.

Sherdog: Since Bellator 147 does have obvious title implications at lightweight and featherweight, what tentative plans do you have for Brooks and Daniel Straus in the coming year?

Coker: Actually we just started talking to [Monte Cox] about Will, and we’d like to see him fight sometime early in the second quarter [of 2016]. That’s kind of what the time frame is for both of those guys. I know Daniel was injured in the fight with "Pitbull," so he might be out a little bit longer. We’re going to wait to see what the doctors say and when he can come back. Was that not just one of the most exciting fights you’ve ever seen? As far as me sitting ringside, it was probably one of the most exciting fights I’ve seen in person. The minute he can come back, we’ll definitely get him back in there and get him fighting again.


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