Coker Teases Featherweight Grand Prix
There was once a time when Bellator MMA revolved itself around tournaments across all its weight classes to determine champions and challengers, but that all changed not long after Scott Coker took over the promotion in 2014.
Coker, however, has become more open to bringing tournaments back into Bellator, which started with the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix to determine a new Bellator heavyweight champion. That tournament began in January 2018 and ended last month with Ryan Bader knocking out Fedor Emelianenko in 35 seconds to claim the then-vacant title. Coker feels the heavyweight tournament was a complete success for the promotion.
“You have to knock on wood because usually an injury happens or something gets pushed back or something happens like you can’t get the date or you can’t get the TV [deal],” Coker said. “Nobody got hurt. The tournament unfolded in a one year period which is exactly what we want and sometimes you get lucky.”
The success led Coker and Bellator to stage a second Grand Prix, this time at welterweight. This kicked off back in September at Bellator 206, held in conjunction with the launch of the MMA promotion’s broadcast deal with DAZN. The third quarterfinal will be held at Bellator 216, where British rivals Michael “Venom” Page and Paul Daley finally meet in a long-anticipated clash in the headline bout.
So far, the tournament has been just as well-received as the heavyweight one, and Coker is now considering holding one Grand Prix per year.
“The tournament format, everybody understands,” Coker said. “I love the tournament format because that’s how I grew up doing martial arts. When I was working for K-1 I loved watching the Grand Prix unfold and then at the end of the year they had the big event. So single elimination events make a lot of sense for us.
“What I learned is that we should always have a tournament at some point in the year. Bellator will run tournament in one weight class per year. We don’t want to do two or three or four different tournaments. And we’ll throw tournaments when we have eight fighters that are brand names already, that people already know that we can put together. That’s been the formula and it’s worked so we’re going to continue doing it.”
As for what weight class is next to receive a Grand Prix, if everything comes to fruition, Coker says nothing is official yet but he and the rest of Bellator brass are looking at a possible featherweight tournament.
“There’s a lot of dialogue about different weight classes,” Coker said. “We haven’t 100 percent said which division but I believe that come October we will probably roll out a new tournament in a different weight class. We’ve talked about the pros and cons of different weight classes but I think that the one that sounds the most attractive to me is the featherweight division.
“You have the Pitbulls [Patricio and Patricky Freire] and you have the A.J. McKees, [James] Gallagher could come up, [Bellator bantamweight champion] Darrion Caldwell could come up, and [Aaron] Pico is in that weight class, [Henry] Corrales, [Emmanuel] Sanchez — we just have so many great fighters in that weight class that I think it makes sense.”
Original Story: MMA Fighting