According to a June 18 report from MMA Fighting, former Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is replacing Bjorn Rebney as Bellator MMA CEO. Officials from Viacom, Bellator's majority owner, made the news official on the morning of June 18. Rebney, who founded Bellator, was with the promotion from its humble beginnings in 2007.
Apparently, Viacom officials did not agree with Rebney on the direction Bellator was heading. Rebney was well-known for his desire to groom homegrown talent, rather than scoop up aging former UFC superstars. That said, it seemed like a mysterious move when Bellator secured Tito Ortiz and Quinton Jackson's services for their inaugural pay-per-view event a couple months ago.
With Coker now on board, Bellator has a new CEO with over 20 years of experience in the fight game. Coker, who began promoting MMA in 2006, led Strikeforce to great success, building it from a relatively unknown brand into the top promotion behind the UFC. Shockingly, the UFC purchased Strikeforce in 2011, and most of the promotion's top stars went on to compete under the UFC banner.
Coker wasn't seen much in the MMA realm after the UFC purchased Strikeforce. However, his UFC contract expired earlier this year, which left him available to test the open market. Coker has always gotten along with UFC President Dana White and the UFC, so it remains to be seen how top UFC officials will react to the news of his hiring with Bellator.
Now that Coker is on board, there's a few things he can do to improve Bellator. First and foremost, he should bring back Bellator's women's division. Obviously women's MMA is extremely popular these days, especially within the UFC and World Series of Fighting. Bellator didn't have much success with women's MMA because they didn't showcase enough fights.
There's plenty of great female talent available. All Bellator needs to do is sign some of the top ladies, and they could easily put on some great female fights. Elsewhere, Coker should get rid of the tournament format. The average MMA fan just wants to see good fights. They never cared much about Bellator's tournament format.
Another move Coker should make is to hold Bellator cards bi-weekly rather than every seven days. Currently, Bellator's cards are a bit too watered down. Holding cards once every two weeks would help minimize the over-saturation. In other matters, Coker would be smart to start building homegrown talent, rather than signing UFC outcasts.
Finally, it would be a good move for Coker to work on building Bellator's heavyweight division, which is easily its worst pool of talent in any division. MMA fans want to see big knockouts, and historically the heavyweights are the biggest attraction who can reel in the most money on pay-per-view. Signing Kimbo Slice would be a good start, but securing the likes of a superstar such as Brock Lesnar would be huge.
Its no coincidence that the UFC saw its greatest success in 2009, when Lesnar was patrolling the heavyweight ranks. Lesnar is a huge crossover star who could legitimately headline Bellator's next pay-per-view card, even though he hasn't competed in MMA in several years. Signing Lesnar would be a power move that Bellator cannot pass up, no matter the cost. Lesnar vs. Slice could push Bellator over the top as a legitimate competitor to the UFC.