Sean Wheelock has opened up about his split with Bellator MMA. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Sean Wheelock, the longtime Bellator MMA play-by-play man who was suddenly replaced in July, wants people to know that his departure is not the fault of Bellator President Scott Coker.
In an interview published Monday on MMAMania.com, Wheelock explained the circumstances surrounding his replacement by Sean Grande, who took over the commentary position ahead of Bellator 138. Wheelock remained quiet after the announcement, but he broke his silence to deny speculation that Coker, who took over as president in June 2014, had removed part of Bellator’s old guard.
“I know for certain that Scott Coker had no input in this decision whatsoever,” said Wheelock. “I think Scott Coker is fantastic, I consider him a friend, and he said some very gracious things to me when this decision went down. Coker has taken some heat from people, but as far as I’m concerned, his hands are clean. He was told the day before I was told that I was no longer going to be a part of Bellator. I know who [made the call], but I just choose not to name them, believe me.”
While he would not identify the individual whom he believes was behind the firing, Wheelock said the person was a Spike TV executive who “didn’t dig what [Wheelock] was doing” and had sought to replace him since 2011. The opportunity came when Wheelock’s contract came up for renewal; instead of negotiating, Wheelock claims, Spike stalled for time while they searched for his replacement. According to Wheelock, he was not informed that he had lost his job until after the story was reported by MMA media.
“I think the story broke maybe an hour before I found out. Ironically enough, AwfulAnnouncing.com, a friend of mine who is their MMA and boxing writer had gotten an anonymous tip about it,” Wheelock said. “He called on Spike and I think that forced the announcement. I was called by an executive at Spike [who] very matter of factly said, ‘I’ve got bad news for you. We’re not renewing your contract. I think it’s best you don’t do any more shows.’”
Wheelock refrained from specific comment about his replacement, Grande, but did express his curiosity at the face that Spike and Bellator hired a play-by-play man with no prior experience in combat sports.
“I think it’s odd that, in combat sports, we’re able to accept somebody who comes in who readily says, ‘I don’t know anything about this sport, but I’m willing to learn,’ because I don't know that we would accept that in any other sport.”
Wheelock had provided play-by-play for Bellator broadcasts since April 2010 alongside color commentator Jimmy Smith. He has also worked as a boxing referee and is currently serving as a member of the Kansas Athletic Commission.