Bjorn Rebney was committed to the idea of a Bellator tournament. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Spike TV President Kevin Kay couldn’t be happier with the direction of Bellator MMA since Scott Coker took over for Bjorn Rebney.
Since joining the Viacom-owned promotion in June of last year, the former Strikeforce head has made many changes, which were heavily on display at Bellator 131, the promotion’s final event of 2014, For Kay, the event in San Diego, Calif., officially signaled that Coker’s reign had began.
“It’s a huge difference, and I couldn’t be more pleased because I think that Scott -- I think you saw at Bellator 131 that the level of production that he’s committed to is next level,” Kay told Sherdog.com. “I love the big screens; I love innovative production, big dramatic entrances. I feel like that’s what the fans want. How many times can you just bring guys out of the dark into the cage and have them fight?
“To have that level of production is just like adding another whole layer of fun,” Kay continued. “I thought that fight in San Diego was everything the promotion should have done. Whether you like it or not, Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar know how to sell a fight. I think Scott [Coker] looks at it like that. There is a ton of showmanship in Scott, so he gets it.”
With multiple new additions to the Bellator roster, Kay feels as though having Coker in the fray draws the attention of some of the bigger free agents available. He credits Coker with maintaining a strong relationship with the fighters and commanding respect from those entrenched in the mixed martial arts landscape.
“I think Scott is just loved by fighters. Everyone shows up for Scott,” Kay explained. “People love him. They believe he’s a straight-shooter; they believe he’s fair; they believe they get answers from him; and they want to fight for him. They want to fight for him. It doesn’t hurt that he has a long history, whether it’s in the United States with Strikeforce and all that he did here, or overseas with kickboxing. He knows everybody and everybody trusts him and that’s exactly what the promotion needs to lift it up.”
One of the biggest changes made to Bellator was the decision to no longer award title shots through the tournament format. Remember the phrase, “The Toughest Tournament in Sports?” For Kay, ridding Bellator of the tourney was a great idea and opened the door for those against it to come and sign with the promotion.
“I think getting rid of the tournaments was the exact right idea,” Kay said. “They were impossible -- you couldn’t go to free agents and say ‘Hey, come to Bellator. You have to fight three times to get a title shot, and then if you lose you have to go back in the tournament.’ You’re not going to get big name guys to do that. We want to have the ability to build our own stars, but we also want to attract the big names, so I think that’s another step in the right direction.”
As for Rebney, the decision for both sides to go separate ways boiled down to Rebney’s commitment to the tournament. Kay had seen it for long enough and ultimately it caused the split.
“We just disagreed on the direction,” Kay said. “I was done with doing tournaments. I just had saw it for long enough. It wasn’t working, and he was committed to it, so that was that.
“It was a good idea and it got us to a certain level, but I think ultimately to sustain the growth of the organization, you’re not going to be able to do it in that structure,” Kay added. “We just disagreed and that’s fine.”