Bellator CEO Scott Coker interview: The Transformation of Mixed Martial Arts
Fightstore Media recently had the fortune of sitting down and speaking to CEO of Bellator MMA, Scott Coker.
Coker, an articulate and intelligent gentleman, spoke enthusiastically about the changing face of MMA.
“We’ve had a lot of changes in martial arts right; the sale of the UFC, I heard that rumour for many years but to actually see it go down, it was changing of the guard,” said Coker.
He then explained that it was Kevin Kay, President of Spike TV, who played a crucial role in preventing MMA from falling into the abyss when he greenlit The Ultimate Fighter show in 2005.
This signalled the UFC’s move into the television market with the launch of their own reality series.
Coker said: “If that wouldn’t have happened, mixed martial arts would have died, I’m not kidding, right in the middle of that, watching it from the outside, I was working with K1 in Japan at the time, I was like ‘if this thing doesn’t go through it’s over.’
“People were beginning to bounce from it because they fought it was too violent and it had no rules, just a free fighting event. 2001 was a real pivotal point, 2005 when Kevin Kay gave them the break and then 2016 is another pivot point.”
Coker then talked about Bellator MMA, the promotion he took over two years ago after founding Strikeforce in 1985.
“When I came to Bellator I looked at it as a very small promotion, shows at very small venues. I looked at it and said you know what let’s go out and sign the best young fighters, and let’s go buy some free agents,” he said.
Those free agents included Phil Davis, Chael Sonnen and Rory MacDonald.
Would Coker be interested in signing Georges St-Pierre?
“GSP is a unique situation. He is saying he is not under contract whereas the UFC is saying he is so they have a dispute. I hope GSP finds out if his contract is valid or not, let the courts decide.”
He added: “If he is free we would definitely want to have a relationship and sort out a deal. But until he’s free it’s kind of a grey area.”
Coker provided his thoughts on whether MMA has replaced boxing as the world’s leading combat sport.
“When you look at boxing it’s older now. I have a son who is 29-years-old, I took him to a boxing fight in Vegas like five, six years ago. He said to me, ‘hey dad this is great but please don’t invite me to a boxing fight again, like we don’t need to do this anymore, but I will come to the next MMA fight,’” Coker laughed.
“So he is my marketing survey. The kids today want something that’s fast, instant and that’s what mixed martial arts provides, it’s raw, explosive and real. So kids can relate to that.
“When you look at it from a corporate standpoint it offers that sponsorship group to 18-35-year-old males. Not too many different sports can do that today. NFL football’s average audience is in its forties now. I heard from ESPN that college football is over 50 now, the average age of viewers. MMA delivers a young audience.”
Looking ahead to 2017 for Bellator, Coker had this to say.
“We have 28 events next year. We look forward to our big fight in London. We will go to Latin America, Argentina or Mexico. There’s offer to do fights in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia. When I started it was in seven-eight countries around the world now it’s in 140.
“We have a respectable roster, great fighters, I think we are very good promoters. Bellator is Strikeforce 2.0. I’m just picking up where I left off. If it was a movie it would be called unfinished business.”
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