The Changing Identity of Bellator
By Jesse Heitz
Today’s piece focuses on a topic that really caught me unaware. To be sure, most anyone who reads my articles knows that I’ve been somewhat critical of Bellator as an organization. However, the news that emerged earlier this week has me really scratching my head.
In case you haven’t heard yet, Bjorn Rebney is out at Bellator. That’s right, the man who founded the company and has turned it into the leading competitor of the juggernaut known as the UFC, has been booted from his own company by parent firm Viacom. Replacing Rebney is former Strikeforce founder and familiar face Scott Coker. In an article published by ESPN, Coker commented on his vision for Bellator, stating,
“My plan is to evolve the league from the tournament format we’ve all known on Spike TV to a more traditional format where the fans get to see the fights they want. A more super fight format.”
“Will we ever do tournaments again? Sure. We will do tournaments when the situation makes sense.”
To be completely honest, this move is a bit perplexing to me. The man who founded a meager little company in 2008, and has subsequently turned it into the second largest MMA promotion in the world has been forced out in favor of a man who essentially drove Strikeforce into the open arms of Zuffa?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against Scott Coker, I just happen to find this move unusual to say the least. Even more bizarre is that Coker plans on ditching the tournament format that has made Bellator a standout promotion. I see little logic in reverting back into the basic fight card structure.
Why would it be a good idea to fight the arch-rival UFC on their own ground? While Bellator’s parent company Viacom has deep pockets, I simply can’t see them infusing Bellator with the gargantuan level of funding necessary to become a certified UFC rival. This coupled with the fact that Bellator lacks the talent pool required to make a successful run at the UFC, particularly if they continue to shift their focus to the pay-per-view market. Could Bellator, and the powerbrokers that control it, be making a colossal mistake by changing the one thing that made Bellator fundamentally different, the tournament format?