Bellator President Scott Coker is no stranger to competition. He has been in the fight game since 1985 when he promoted his first event for the Professional Karate Association. He went on to serve as one of the first directors of ISKA and headed K-1 USA when it signed a TV deal with ESPN. He founded Strikeforce as a kickboxing organization and promoted their first MMA bout in 1997. The first full MMA card for the promotion came in 2006. That event was a joint venture with EliteXC headlined by Frank Shamrock vs. Cesar Gracie. It sold out with 18,265 fans on hand to see the action, at the time the record attendance for an MMA show in North America. Strikeforce aired shows on NBC, CBS and Showtime long before the UFC’s FOX deal and in case you might have forgotten A number of top fighters like Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez, Luke Rockhold, Clay Guida, Gina Carano, Nate Diaz and Miesha Tate all had their first major arena fights in Strikeforce. Remember when Fedor Emelianenko’s 10-year unbeaten streak came to an end at the hands of current UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum? That was a Scott Coker promoted show. Five short years after it’s first MMA card, when it was sold to Zuffa in 2011, it was the 2nd biggest MMA promotion in the world. Coker was retained by UFC’s parent company for a contractual period of three years. That period ended in April 2014, by June he was announced as the new President of Bellator MMA, replacing founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney. Long story short, he has been around the MMA block many times over and has proved that he has the midas touch when it comes to the promotion side of the business.
Today, Mr. Coker sent shock waves through the MMA world once again when it was announced that Bellator signed highly ranked free agent Benson Henderson. This was not the first such move that Bellator has made in recent years. In April 2015, they made a big splash in the waters of MMA when they signed highly ranked UFC light heavyweight, Phil Davis. In July 2014, they saved another UFC vet from the MMA wasteland when they signed Paul Daley to a long term deal. In fact, if you look at their current roster, the names certainly look a lot more familiar to the casual fan than they did just a few years ago. While some of the names are undoubtedly past their prime, the name recognition that the Bellator roster has now is undeniable: Cheick Kongo, Bobby Lashley, Kimbo Slice, Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie, King Mo, Tito Ortiz, Alessio Sakara, Kendall Groove, Melvin Manhoef, Josh Thompson, Houston Alexander, Josh Neer, Josh Koscheck, Melvin Gulliard, Paul Sass, Nam Phan. Even More impressive to hardcore fans are the names that they have been able to build up on their own. Historically these “homegrown” fighters were always eventually poached by the UFC and other organizations, but now Bellator has begun to be able to retain guys like Liam McGreary, Joe Warren, The Pitbull Brothers Patricky and Patricio, Will Brooks, Daniel Straus, Marcos Galvao, Emmanuel Newton and Linton Vassell.
It is worth noting that for some of the fighters that were just mentioned Bellator was simply the only option out there for them as far as major promotions go, but signing guys like Davis and Henderson says something about what Bellator is willing to pay to attract top talent. For some time now we have been hearing rumblings from fans and fighters alike about the problems with the pay scale for UFC fighters. Bellator is now actively putting their money where their mouth is and evening those scales. These fighters were not just run of the mill guys who signed deals with Bellator, they were prime talent that was taken away from the UFC during the resigning process. Another fact worth noting is that while fans have had some negative things to say about some of the matchmaking in Bellator since Coker took over, you would be hard-pressed to find a fighter that has a bad word to say about him. The same cannot be said for the higher ups at Zuffa.
These types deals where free agents go to the highest bidder will continue and President Coker was on Monday afternoon’s edition of The MMA Hour to talk about the Henderson signing and Bellator’s future plans.
“This guy has done it all,” Coker said. “He’s fought everybody. … He’s such a class act and such a great guy, too. I thought he’d be a great fit for our company.”
“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Coker said. “Fighters are fighting out their contacts. They want to negotiate. They really want to see what their value is. We’re going to help them to define what their value is. It’s always good for the industry to have more than one bidder.”
“I’ve always said we’re going to build our roster from the ground up and then buy the free agents from the top down that we want…By the end of this year, I think we’re gonna have a really good roster on our hands and some really big fights ahead of us.”
“All these free agents that are out there aren’t just testing free agency just to test it. I think there are other fighters out there that we’ll get.”
While Coker didn’t mention anyone by name that Bellator might have their eye next, some of the biggest names out there on the open market are Alistair Overeem, Aljamain Sterling, and Matt Mitrione. All of them would draw top dollar from Bellator and it seems plausible that they might decide to go that way. Mitrione has had his ups and downs with the UFC over his comments over male born turned female MMA fighter Fallon Fox, Sterling has been vocal about not appreciating the way other less experienced fighters such as Sage Northcutt get promoted more than him when stating that he is open to entertaining offers on the open market and Overeem has a past relationship with Coker from his fights in Strikeforce.
Now do I think that Bellator is going to take over the UFC anytime in the near future? I wouldn’t go that far just yet, but given enough time anything is possible. Let’s not forget that MMA is still a young sport, it has only been around for 25 years and just think of the changes we have seen in the last two decades. It was only ten years ago that Pride was the dominant force in MMA until an organized crime scandal caused it’s eventual downfall in 2005. Only time will tell what the future holds. Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say, but I would equate Henderson’s move to Bellator to Rome winning the First Punic War at the Battle of the Aegates Islands. Carthage signed a treaty and was eventually absorbed by the Republic of Rome, but in time, Rome also fell.
Two quotes come to mind about the state of affairs with free agents signings. The first being from American Author Nancy Pearcey who once said “Competition is always a good thing. It forces us to do our best. A monopoly renders people complacent and satisfied with mediocrity.” While I believe that to be the truth, if the recent history of MMA has taught us anything, Bellator might only be poising itself to bring top dollar in the future when it gets profitable enough for the UFC to get out its checkbook. Pearcey was a great author, but authors don’t usually make a ton of money. I am afraid that a great businessman, former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch, might have provided a better insight to what the future of the sport holds when he said, “Number one, cash is king… number two, communicate… number three, buy or bury the competition.”
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Exclusive: Jalin Turner vs Noah Tillis set for Bellator LA in January
Bellator LA: Douglas Lima vs Rory MacDonald, has just had another entertaining fight added as two talented prospects Jalin Turner and Noah Tillis are set to meet in a lightweight bout. Sources close to the fight confirmed the news to MMA Latest earlier this morning.
Jalin “The Tarantula” Turner makes his return to the Bellator cage for the first time since January 2017, where he defeated Gabriel Green by knockout, in an exciting fight that only lasted 36 seconds. Since the fight, Turner has gone 2-1 where he defeated Paradise Vaovasa by KO, at Tachi PF 31, before dropping his next fight to Richard LeRoy by TKO, at CFX 8. Turner bounced back from the loss by beating Vytautas Sadauskas by submission, at KOTC: Never Quit, back in September.
Noah Tillis is currently coming off of a 9-second submission victory against Jeff Carson, at Gladiator Challenge: American Pride, back in July. The “Submission Magician” has amassed a professional record of 3-2 with three victories coming by submission, DQ, and a TKO due to injury. His two losses coming by way of TKO and decision.
It is unclear where the fight will be featured, but it is assumed it will take place on the undercard. The potential brawl represents a stiff challenge for either man, as well as an opportunity to make some noise in an always deep lightweight division.
The only other fight currently announced on the card is the main event between current Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger, Rory MacDonald. Bellator LA: Lima vs MacDonald is set to take place on Saturday, January 20th, in Los Angeles, Calfornia, at the Forum.
Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor wants to knockout Trey Branch then fight Brian Moore in Bellator on St. Patricks Day
Going from postlim fights in Bellator to a co-main event and then a main card fight after with such little professional experience isn’t something you’d hear of very often in the slightest. In this case Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor is the exception, who in only his third professional fight went to Ireland as part of the co-main event for a fight with James Gallagher. Taylor became well known to many in the build-up to that fight for being so outspoken and quite an entertainer, something he carries with him to the cage.
Anthony Taylor now has himself a fight lined up in a regional show near his home in California at California Fighting Championships. This will be his first time fighting back in America since May 2016. His last two bouts were in Europe as part of Bellator’s expansion into Europe. Following two losses he now hopes to get back in the win column in front of a home crowd. Taking this fight as a tune off fight Anthony is confident he won’t be touched by his opponent Trey Branch.
“Well, I’m taking this fight because Bellator said I’ll be fighting next year for overseas and it will be a good tune off fight for me. I think of trey like any other fighter. Just a guy who’s not going to touch me nor beat me.”
His opponent Trey Branch is jumping up from flyweight for this fight, Anthony believes he’s going to dominate his opponent and knock him out with ease. Now having 3 career losses coming via submission, he is not worried about his ground game, guaranteeing it was improved from training with some of the top fighters in Bellator.
“I believe I’m going to overpower him and KO him. He’s coming up from 125lb to fight me which I stated to the world on Bellator that I’m the strongest 45er in the world!! And as far as my ground game, it’d be covered and it’s great. Thanks to AJ McKee, Baby Slice, Joey Davis and Aaron Pico. My ground game is great and up there to the level, as there’s”
Looking ahead to next year when he competes in Bellator again, Taylor has his eyes set on a big fight in a return to Irish soil.
“Well Bellator loves me and I proved them that I belong there. I haven’t been told when I was fighting but I hope it’s back in Ireland, and maybe on St. Patricks day and hopefully I’ll fight Brian Moore because me and him been wanting to fight the longest.”
As a training partner for AJ McKee, Taylor was very pleased with how the fight went down, claiming it was a simple enough fight for his teammate that apparently didn’t train much for the fight. Suffering a loss on the initial trip to the emerald isle, “PrettyBoy” wants to come back and take home a win next time around.
“Oh man it was an easy fight for AJ, he only trained 2 weeks for that Brian Moore fight” he laughs “but absolutely it would be a great show if I was also on the show me and James alone still holds the record of views internationally and I’m looking to come back and taking what’s mines which is that W”
The win against Brian Moore could now potentially line up a fight between McKee and James Gallagher, fight fans have long sought after. Having fought against James and training with McKee on the regular Taylor isn’t convinced that Gallagher is ready for the AJ just yet. He also had some words about SBG fighters who were calling out Baby Slice.
“James is not ready for AJ. And people calling out slice since he’s new in the game. Why are sbg guys not calling out Joey Davis?? They are all talk and think that they’re better than everyone.”
With a win on Saturday, Anthony Taylor thinks it will kick him off to a series of consecutive wins that could ultimately land him in a fight with Emmanuel Sanchez.
“Yes it will start off (Saturday) and I believe it will set me up tremendously. I’m only getting better and I plan on winning fights in Bellator and then taking out Emanuel Sanchez. I do not like him, I hate him”
“I don’t like his style and he’s always hating on my teammates so I want his head” he added
Away from the fight scene, Anthony is pleased with the life that he’s got set up for himself with his newfound love since joining Bellator as he now aims to break into the movie industry too.
“Man it’s been great I now have a wonderful woman in my life so I’m happy. I’m acting too, trying to get into the movies industry and God has blessed me which so much love”
You can follow Anthony Taylor on all his social media accounts to keep an eye out for all his upcoming fight information and results.
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