Bellator Begins: The Coker Reboot

On  June 18, 2014, Bellator MMA changed forever. The controversial, polarising figure of Bjorn Rebney was removed (or parted ways if you prefer) from his CEO role. In his place, Viacom decided to bring in a man whose ethos represented everything Rebney’s didn’t. Scott Coker, the former Strikeforce founder was put in charge, thus sending Bellator into the definitive process of, “Cokerisation.

Many readers are probably looking at the previous paragraph and thinking, “Cokerisation?” What the heck is that? Well, to put it simply, it’s the current procedure that Bellator are going through, redefining their entire philosophy to something more of Coker’s standard.

The Bjorn Rebney Bellator didn’t seem to be fulfilling the needs of Viacom executives. The tournament format had proven a lot of problems for them, when you put four men in a tournament, it was creative thinking to put your best two guys on the opposite sides of the brackets. Simple yes? Well, as we have seen the past year or so in Bellator, things rarely go to plan.

The prime example of this being the Bellator Season 8 Light-Heavyweight tournament. From the tournament set up, it would have seen the company were aiming for a final between their two latest coups, King Mo and Babalu Sobral.

Unfortunately for Bellator, the MMA gods weren’t quite appeased by that possible match up; and quite frankly, neither were fans, as Babalu lost to Mikhail Zayats in the quarter finals. As for King Mo, well, that’s pretty much history.

In a recent interview on the MMA Hour, latest Bellator signing Paul Daley confirmed there were no tournament clauses in his contract. Could this be the end of the tiresome tournament format in mainstream MMA?

Coker, as well as former Strikeforce matchmaker Rich Chou have already started the re-branding of Bellator. Bringing in “Coker” guys like Paul Daley and Melvin Manhoef. Why are these Coker guys? Well it’s simple, Coker was and is a huge fan of stand up fighters, this extends from his background in kickboxing.

Right now, Scott Coker taking over the day to day operations of Bellator is probably the best thing for the company going forward. It’s known that there were a lot of fighters who didn’t like the way Rebney went about his business, none more so than Eddie Alvarez.

However, Coker and Strikeforce weren’t perfect. One of the main demises of Strikeforce was the company was struggling to turn over a significant amount of profit to keep them rolling. They weren’t making a loss, however the expenditure on guys like Fedor and Overeem, factored in with average television ratings and attendance, meant the company struggled towards the end of their existence.

One thing that Rebney did well was the handling of contracts. Even in the case of Alvarez, these contracts allowed the fighters to make enough money to live on, without bankrupting the promotion. And this is something Coker will have to deal with. He won’t be able to just throw money at talent as he may have done in Strikeforce.

Overall, will “Cokerisation” benefit Bellator in the long run? Most likely. He is a very well liked guy in the industry, fighters want to fight for him and that’s one of the most important things in today’s business. The most important thing for Bellator though is to maintain their identity, and the fear is, removing the tournament structure could rebrand them Strikeforce 2.0.

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