How Does The Bellator Regime Change Impact the MMA Landscape?

It was long rumored that Viacom executives wanted Bjorn Rebney out.  It was also rumored that once Scott Coker’s non-compete clause ended that he would be their target.  Those rumors proved to be true.  Now that Rebney is out and Coker is in, what is the impact on the MMA world?  I think first, we will see immediate changes in Bellator.  I think we will see some personnel moves.  Perhaps Coker brings in Rich Chou or a new match maker.  I really would expect current Bellator match maker Sam Caplan to be ousted sooner rather than later.  Also, it is clear that Bellator will step away from the tournament format in favor of traditional match making.  Coker also made clear that after September we will see monthly events in lieu of weekly events in hopes of stacking cards.  All of those are good moves, in my opinion.  But those changes are not exactly what I am thinking about.  How does the change affect the MMA world at-large.

I think one thing it does it make Bellator a player for top free agents and prospects again.  I know that I have been dubbed a “Bellator hater” and for good reason.  However, I was right when I said that fighters did not like Bjorn Rebney.  We are hearing some of this now that he is out.  The truth is that following the Eddie Alvarez situation, Bellator struggled to convince fighters to sign with them.  I am not saying that was or was not based in good reason, but perception means everything.  I heard from managers and fighters alike that they did not want to go to Bellator.  Now that Coker is in, I expect a change.  Eddie Alvarez has already come out and said that he is now not certain he wants to bolt Bellator.  Scott Coker has a great rapport with fighters.  However, who could he sign at this point.  The reality is that options are very limited on the free agent market.  Perhaps the biggest available names are guys like Sergei Kharitonov, Satoshi Ishii or Paul Daley.  I don’t see them pulling Fedor out of retirement.

Maybe we see Bellator become more of a player among prospects.  I heard from several managers right after the Bjorn ouster that they were at least more interested in Bellator.  Sam Caplan is still a worry for some.  I think we could see Bellator sign some top level prospects.  When Bellator began they signed some great talent.  Somewhere along the way they had a shift in mentality.  They started signing UFC cast-offs over prospects.  This hurt them long term.  Coker is smart.  He has experience scouting and signing talent.  Look what he did with the Strikeforce Challengers series.  Fighters like Tarec Saffiedine, Tyron Woodley, Daniel Cormier,  and Ovince St. Preux became legit fighters on the Challengers series.  I think that can be duplicated in Bellator.  I think that would be a wise priority for Coker and crew.  If I was him I would try my best to snatch up the best talent that UFC is waiting on for one reason or another.  I would go after Gleristone Santos, Thomas Almeida and a few other elite blue chip prospects.  Coker knows what he is doing and is good at building rapport.  I expect fighter relations and signing to be the biggest change in the MMA landscape.  As a result, we will see competition for talent.  We may see UFC forced to sign more prospects right now.  We may see increase in fighter pay as well.

Is it possible that we see some UFC fighters leave for Bellator when their contracts end rather than re-signing with UFC?  I think that is possible.  Don’t put the cart before the horse.  Guys like Nick Diaz are not going to be in Bellator tomorrow.  They have UFC contracts.  Even though they have ties to Coker they at least have to fulfill their UFC deals.  Also, UFC is still the premiere place.  Some people forget that even when Strikeforce was in its peak, that those guys still dreamed of being in UFC.

Another question, is what does Bellator do with Eddie Alvarez.  I think Alvarez is interested in staying, but the question is do you match him against Michael Chandler or Will Brooks.  Chandler is the bigger fighter, but it is risky.  I think Chandler is Bellator’s best fighter.  So, do you risk giving him three straight losses by matching him against Eddie.  If I was in Coker’s shoes I would do Eddie vs. Brooks to unify the titles.  Then see what happens with Alvarez.  It is a much safer play.

One other way I think the change affects MMA as a whole is that I think we would see some co-promotion.  I am not sure with who or how, but Coker is willing to co-promote.  He did it with M-1 and DREAM before.  He could do it with M-1 right now.  There is no Fedor-esque star there, but there are loads of prospects in M-1.  Viacom MMA could become huge and worldwide with strong partnerships with M-1 or OneFC.  I would be willing to bet that Bellator is interested in forming a very solid partnership with OneFC.  M-1 would be a nice back up plan.  Could we even see one show where World Series of Fighting vs. Bellator?

Viacom has loads of money.  There switch indicates that they are invested in MMA.  I think they could pour more money into Bellator.  I will be interested to see what happens.  I will be interested to see how new Viacom MMA deals with some of Bjorn’s contracts that are still in place.  Rampage, for example, has a deal in place for a reality show and some other gigs.  I am told Viacom doesn’t like Rampage and may oust him.  Tito has a deal only for Viacom PPV.  Other guys have back room promises and contractual obligations that Coker may not be thrilled with.  Sit back and enjoy the rise.  Things are going to change.  I think they change for the good.

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One Response to How Does The Bellator Regime Change Impact the MMA Landscape?

  1. Raymond says:

    They are decreasing to monthly shows. How on earth are they going to go after more prospects when they will be doing half the events? They are going to have trouble fulfilling their current obligations to fighters they already have on contract.

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