According to an Aug. 21 report from MMA Fighting, Bellator has made a serious commitment to women's MMA since former Strikeforce head honcho, Scott Coker, took over for Bjorn Rebney as promotion president. Coker has already signed three talented female fighters to Bellator, including undefeated women's featherweight prospect Talita Nogueira, Invicta FC vet Julia Budd and legendary former Strikeforce standout Marloes Coenen.
Bellator is clearly trying to become the leading destination for 145-pound female fighters, since the UFC doesn't currently have a female featherweight division. The promotion already secured the services of Coenen, Budd and Nogueira, but more signings are expected in the days and weeks ahead. Obviously, Gina Carano and Cris Santos are being looked at as potential options for the division.
Coker has experience working with Carano and Santos during his tenure at Strikeforce, so Bellator will look closely at signing them. Additionally, Coker revealed in a recent interview that Bellator is looking into adding a second female division, on top of the newly-former featherweight one. Coker did not reveal which division he's looking into, but fight fans would have to guess it'll be the 105-pound ranks.
Since the UFC has a stronghold on the bantamweight and strawweight divisions, Bellator could become the leading destination for featherweights and atomweights. More details are sure to emerge in the days and weeks ahead regarding Coker's comments about bolstering the female ranks.
As of the afternoon of Aug. 21, it hadn't been announced when Coenen, Budd and Nogueira will be making their Bellator debuts. Bellator had a female division as recently as last year, but got rid of it for unknown reasons. Several high-level female fighters competed under the Bellator banner in the past, including Jessica Eye, Zoila Gurgel and Felice Herrig.
Heading into 2015, Bellator looks to start fresh with a new wave of female talent. Carano hasn't made any official comment on potentially signing with Bellator, and neither has Santos. Is there a bidding war between UFC and Bellator over securing Carano's services? That may very well be the case, since both promotions realize she would draw big business.