Bellator’s struggle to evolve is now in Scott Coker’s hands.


Bjorn Rebney’s exit from Bellator stunned many regular fans. The company had just come off their first pay-per-view event. According to Spike president Kevin Kay, it generated a 100,000 pay-per-view buy rate. That was deemed as an astounding surprise, considering all the negativity that surrounded the event.

While it didn’t exactly make everything positive in Bellator, it seemed like a good morale boost. The controversial judging decisions, Mohammed “King Mo” Lawal repeatedly trashing Rebney on camera, and the fiasco in the lightweight division seemed to have been forgotten about. That wasn’t until this week, when Bellator decided to oust Rebney from control of the company.

There have been rumblings in the past year about the direction of the company. From the constant confliction of deciding whether or not sign UFC castoffs to a stale tournament format; Rebney faced adversity on a weekly basis. He was persistent on having consistent shows in pursuit of making stars.

While he always had the right idea, Rebney simply never had the tools to operate under that format. Many people constantly complain about the UFC placing events on a near weekly basis. They can afford to do that with such a massive roster of nearly 500 fighters. In Bellator’s case, they’re weekly events would largely feature unknown fighters and a main event that showcased at least one UFC castoff. It became redundant, although ratings were still relatively steady. Spike wasn’t impressed though and wanted the product to evolve.

Scott Coker has now been brought in to shore things up. According to Kay, there are expected to be less shows and the tournament format will be diminished. Kay seems to know the pulse of many MMA fans, which want quality over quantity. They aren’t interested in seeing James Thomson fighting in a main event against Eric Prindle.

That is nowhere near a main-event caliber fight. Do people want to invest their time on a Friday night in watching a journeyman heavyweight against an underachiever in the main event? Then the other “attraction” for that event was an even bigger underachiever in Sokoudjou. Bellator simply doesn’t have the roster to keep their momentum steady by continuing to put on shows on a weekly basis.

Coker may not be a flashy replacement, but he showed that he could put together entertaining events in his time at Strikeforce. At the same time, he’s had issues in the past dealing with lopsided match making. That is something that Rebney had dealt with as well, which includes there past light heavyweight tournament. Christian M’Pumbu and Mikhail Zayats aren’t pushovers, but they were clearly positioned in the tournament to lose and help create the marquee matchup between Rampage Jackson and King Mo. Then the post-fight skirmish between Jackson and Mo occurred, which felt forced and scripted.

It’ll be important for Coker to sustain legitimate matchups, along with trying to make Bellator different. That was always an objective for Rebney in being different from the UFC. He did it through the tournament system, which was a good idea on paper. Then it became a formality and the excitement for each tournament began to dwindle.

Coker will need to improvise a unique format that can get fans excited on a weekly basis once again. Whether they do that by holding just 18 events a year to make better cards or focusing on fights that are logical, those are some elements that can remove the negative stigma from the company. What needs to happen from both of these elements is that the fights have to consistently matter.

That was another major problem from Rebney’s regime, where a tournament would headline an event and then other random fights would occur. This also attributes to Rebney’s poor promotion skills. In an interview with Luke Thomas before their pay-per-view event, he was asked if this was the biggest Bellator event of all time. He stumbled around the question and never gave an indicative answer.

When you decide to hold your first show on pay-per-view, wouldn’t you make sure that it’s the most special night in the company’s history? They did a good job of showcasing recognizable names, yet Rebney didn’t contribute to that success. He was given a great platform to talk about the event and couldn’t give it a clear statement. His promotional skills didn’t hurt the pay-per-view buy rate, but it did make you question him as someone, who should be speaking on behalf of a company.

Coker was never known as a charismatic figure. He’s always been a modest person that remains professional at all times. We should see a more cooperative relationship between him and Spike to create a better product. Coker has never been known as stubborn like Rebney and never took shots at other promotions. His biggest attribute is having a proven track record.

Nobody can deny that Strikeforce had success in generating interest. Then you look at the talent within itself and they helped create a plethora of stars. You don’t have to look no further than the UFC middleweight division right now. A good half of the top ten fighters came from the Strikeforce merger. While that sounds fantastic, one major question comes up from this. What can Coker do with lesser talent?

There won’t be any promotion like Affliction or Elite XC that will fold and help them bring in recognizable talent like Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett. He’ll have to rely on the current roster that has recognizable talent in the light heavyweight and lightweight division. How will he take upon the challenges of selecting Eddie Alvarez’s next opponent and if a rematch between Rampage and King Mo is a viable option?

Based on their first conference call, Coker seemed to be a much fit. He’s willing to evolve and not be persistent on the same regime. Rebney deserves more credit for having success in making the tournament format work for a considerable amount of time. Eventually it became stale and his decisions weren’t justifiable. From immediate title rematches (Daniel Stratus vs. Pat Curran) to not immediately booking the interim champion against current champion between Eddie Alvarez and Will Brooks, Rebney didn’t have any defenses left for his decisions.

If you don’t evolve, you die has always been a popular quote. Bellator is far from dying as an organization. Viacom hasn’t lost faith in supporting them in becoming a recognized promotion. They’ve simply failed to evolve in many key areas over the past few years. Kevin Kay is persistent on trying new concepts. Coker is a well-liked person, but he’ll have to make innovate changes in order to see an increase in success.

The potential is there amongst the roster, although patience will be key. Many fighters and managers will certainly be happier with the inclusion of Coker, after having a turbulent relationship with Rebney. Even the fans seemed to have faith in him to rejuvenate the number two MMA organization in the world. The possibility of super fights from the press conference has already generated interest. That is what Bellator needs in order to continue to bring in new fans to watch recognizable fighters and great talent rather than force-feed them mediocre action.

Twitter: @Allen_Strk

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