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 For Scott Coker, Bellator is proving to be MMA's healthy No. 2

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PostSubject: For Scott Coker, Bellator is proving to be MMA's healthy No. 2   Thu Feb 18, 2016 8:58 pm


HOUSTON – Nearly seven years after the promotion hosted its first MMA event, Bellator may finally be hitting its stride.

Long viewed as an inferior alternative to the industry-leading UFC, the Bellator brand is currently riding higher than ever under the leadership of president Scott Coker, a 30-year promoter who took over the Bellator helm in 2014.

“Our TV ratings have gone up,” Coker tells USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie. “Our gates have also gone up. Our sponsorships have gone up, and our international distribution and international dollars have gone up significantly.

“I do believe that MMA will continue to grow. It’s not going anywhere, and Bellator is definitely here to stay.”

In 2015, Bellator aired 13 events on Spike and averaged 830,000 viewers per show, which marked a 13 percent increase among adults 18-49 over the previous year. The organization expects one of its bigger TV audiences with Friday’s Bellator 149 event in Houston, which features MMA trailblazers Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie in the headliner.

Bellator’s programming airs in nearly 140 countries, and blue-chip sponsors such as Miller Lite, Dave & Buster’s and Monster Energy currently support the brand. But it was this month’s signing of former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson that really seemed to mark a sea change for the organization, and quite possibly the sport.

Benson Henderson
Because of the organization’s partnership with Spike, which has recently dabbled in other combat sports, Henderson said Bellator offered things, including the potential for pro boxing and kickboxing bouts, that the UFC couldn’t.

“It’s definitely what helped sell me on the idea of Bellator,” Henderson says.

The deal was a major coup for the promotion, and Coker thinks it’s proof the organization can be a major player for other top free agents. However, he doesn’t expect a rash of bidding wars.

“I’ve always said that with certain fighters, we’re not going to go after them, and for certain fighters, we will,” Coker said. “And the ones that we will, we’re going to go after really hard like we did Benson.

“It’s up to me and my guys to make sure that it makes sense internally for Bellator to be able to monetize the situation, too. It can’t be just that we’re going to go after every fighter. It’s not like a free-agent war game. It’s going to be the guys that we want, and we’re going to strategically go after them and try our best to get them.”

A few other highly touted free agents, including heavyweight Alistair Overeem and bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling, went the opposite direction and ultimately re-signed with the UFC. But Coker said he didn’t identify them as necessary targets.

“It comes down to this: The fighter that we get, do we have great match-ups for him?” Coker said. “Can he move the TV ratings needle and put butts in seats, or can we build him or her? That’s really what it comes down to for me, and that’s really how I feel.

“There are probably more free agents available today than ever. I think some of the free agents feel that they’re going to come out there and then just get paid all this money. That’s not the case either. People aren’t going to overpay. People are going to pay the real value, and I think that’s what the misconception is.”

The UFC remains the clear No. 1 in MMA, and that doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon. However, Coker believes Bellator will continue to make gains, and the result could prove a windfall for all fighters.

“The money will have to go up on both sides,” Coker said. “I’m sure it’s already going up. It’s going to be good because that’s how you keep the industry healthy. You’ve got to have multiple buyers.”
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PostSubject: Re: For Scott Coker, Bellator is proving to be MMA's healthy No. 2   Thu Feb 18, 2016 10:54 pm

I can't stop laughing like a 6th grader at "healthy number 2".

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PostSubject: Re: For Scott Coker, Bellator is proving to be MMA's healthy No. 2   Fri Feb 19, 2016 2:27 pm

I don't mind watching the old folks fight on Spike at Bellator. Since its free and Fridays hardly have to break a sweat watching and you get lots of time to cook chicken wings during some of the fights.
Wait.... what?
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