Listen to Wednesday's Scott Coker/Bellator MMA media conference call in the player above.
Scott Coker knows he has a lot of issues to address as Bellator MMA’s newly minted president.
The former Strikeforce CEO would like to make it clear, as someone not even one full day into his new gig, that some of these things take time. That meant that during an introductory conference call on Wednesday, Coker had to leave a number of burning questions unanswered.
Kimbo Slice to Bellator? Coker has heard the rumors like everyone else, but as far as he knows they’re just that: rumors. Going head-to-head with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in September? That’s something to be addressed at a later date. Quinton Jackson hinting at retirement on Instagram? Coker plans on reaching out to “Rampage” and having a conversation. A potential ownership stake in Bellator? Don’t even go there.
However, Coker was able to offer hints and clues as to how the promotion will eventually look down the road. In revealing his version of “Bellator 2.0,” Coker described a nearly tournament-free organization with a deep and talented roster that wouldn’t be averse to co-promotion endeavors.
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“It feels good to be back. I’m excited to team up with Spike and Viacom, who have played a very integral role in the success of mixed martial arts over the last decade,” Coker said. “I see a lot of potential in Bellator. I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to build a brand and take it to the level I think me and my team can.”
Many of the aforementioned goals will take some time to come to fruition, as Spike TV President Kevin Kay pointed out.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We do have a lot of fighter deals in place, contracts in place, we have venue deals in place,” Kay said. “A good deal of that we obviously want to move forward with. I think what we’re talking about is an evolution over time to the vision that Scott has. It’s not gonna happen overnight.”
It seems that the previously-named “Toughest Tournament in Sports” will be the first thing to go, although Coker is not opposed to running a worthwhile MMA bracket when the time is right. Strikeforce’s talented and drawn-out heavyweight grand prix stands as an example.
“As we move forward, my plan is to evolve the league from the tournament format that we’ve all known to a more traditional format where the fans get to see the fights that they want -- more of a super fight format,” he said. “Will we ever do tournaments again? Sure, we will do tournaments when the situation makes sense. I feel that a tournament has a place in the sport of MMA, but the timing has to be right, the fighters have to be right and we’ll determine that on a case-by-case basis.”
In Strikeforce, Coker was able to build a talented roster with many fighters who are still making a significant impact in the UFC today. The new Bellator boss pointed to the likes of Daniel Cormier, Ronda Rousey, Luke Rockhold and Tyron Woodley as a few prominent examples. He plans on building his new promotion’s roster to a similar level.
“We are going to look at the roster, build a roster, and start developing new talent,” Coker said. [That means] going out in the field and finding new guys and start looking for new stars. We might share some; we might buy some; we might build some. That’s been our motto in the past. It’s worked for us and we’re just going to re-engage and start mining for those athletes.
“I think we’ve got a great roster, but I can guarantee you in another year, or even six months, our roster will be a bit more robust.”
As for co-promotion, Kay seemed open to the possibility of letting his new hire pursue that option, a far cry from when Bellator ignored World Series of Fighting’s call for a head-to-head event in January.
I’m 100 percent fine with that [co-promotion] if it’s the right deal,” Kay said. “That’s up to Scott honestly. He’s done it well in the best and I fully support it.”
While the Coker-to-Bellator rumors have been circulating for quite some time, the man himself claims everything came together only very recently.
Coker’s new employer -- as well as the rest of the MMA world -- seems excited about the possibilities of the new regime. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say. In other words, the honeymoon phase is in full swing.
“If we can put a fight together that makes sense for the company, that can drive the needle for Spike TV, then we’re going to do it,” Coker said.
Any more questions? The new Bellator president will get back to you in another week or so.