Following yesterday's announcement that the UFC has partnered up with Reebok for an official uniform deal, the MMA world was abuzz with talk of how Bellator might be the fighters' saving grace. While the details are still trickling out, and likely will continue to do so over the next several months, there is still a laundry list of questions that have yet to be addressed.
Bellator CEO, Scott Coker gave Bloody Elbow a brief interview where discussion points included initial thoughts on the UFC uniform deal, Bellator's future plans, the current status of Frodo's visa situation and their pursuit of blockbuster talent to provide a solid bolster of star power to the roster.
Bloody Elbow: What are your initial thoughts on the UFC's new uniform deal with Reebok?
Scott Coker: You know, I've had that question asked quite a few times today, and my thoughts are, they have a business to run and it must have been a good business decision to make it happen. A lot of thought probably went into it, and I'm sure they realize that the athletes are going to be asking a lot of questions. I think there's a lot to be answered, so I would say wait until the facts all come out. I wish them good luck.
Bloody Elbow: Has Bellator been in contact with other traditional MMA brands about increasing sponsor opportunities for their fighters?
Scott Coker: We've been approached by brands all year long. Would that escalate because of this situation? I'm really not sure. I personally haven't had any calls today, but they wouldn't be going to me anyway, they'd be going to our sponsorship division out of New York.
Bloody Elbow: Do you think Bellator can offer contracts competitve enough that fighters will choose you over the UFC?
Scott Coker: Obviously people know who we're backed by. It's an ongoing process, but I will say this: there's not a fighter on this planet that if the value was there, we couldn't take.
Bloody Elbow: What could Bellator offer someone like Brock to make him consider the promotion over the WWE or UFC?
Scott Coker: I think this is a "cart before the horse" thing. My understanding is that he's still under contract with the WWE and he'd like to focus on that. When the time is right, and he's a free agent, then we'll sit down and talk with him, but for now, there haven't been any specifics outlined for a deal.
Bloody Elbow: Is there any interest in CM Punk?
Scott Coker: Yeah, I would say this: if there's a fighter that can move the needle for us, drive ratings, help the international television broadcast, help bring in sponsorships and put people in seats, then we're all in. Whether it's Punk or some other fighter or wrestler that wants to make the transition at some point, we're going to be here and ready to talk to anybody when they're free to have that discussion.
Bloody Elbow: Currently, you have 16 events planned for 2015. With this announcement, and the potential to increase the roster, would more events be considered?
Scott Coker: I would say for 2015, we're pretty much set in stone. We'll have a card every month and then 4 times this year, we'll have the big tent-pole events with the big staging and big venues and big production.
In 2016, we're going to continue doing the shows once a month, but we'll be going to 6 or 8 of the big tent-pole shows. Eventually, I'd like to get to the point where we're doing 12 regular shows and 10-12 tent-pole events a year. Ideally, we want to be putting on 22-24 events a year, and I think that's a good, healthy number. It allows for big fights, the fights that fans really want to see.
Bloody Elbow: How many fights a year do you expect to get your athletes?
Scott Coker: You know, that's really up to the fighter. For instance, Melvin Manhoef; he'll fight 3 fights in 6-8 months. I could probably offer him 4 or even 5 fights with no problem. There are so many different circumstances that can unfold, injury being the biggest. Typically though, we like to offer our athletes 3 fights a year.
Bloody Elbow: How big will your roster be next year?
Scott Coker: We have about 150 fighters on our roster right now, and for next year, we'll probably keep it in the 150-175 range and then grow it more from there in the following years.
Bloody Elbow: Will Joe Vedepo fight for Bellator again?
Scott Coker: We are now speaking directly to the authorities there in his home town and trying to get more facts. We'll hold judgement until we get all the facts, then we'll make a decision at that time.
Bloody Elbow: Can we expect the entrance production quality to be as high for every future show?
Scott Coker: That production was great. It reminded me of years gone by, not only with Strikeforce, but with PRIDE, as well. That's really our goal here. We want to bring the best fights that we can put together, the fights that the fans want to see and do the production that's over the top that makes it a top entertainment night for everybody.
Bloody Elbow: Recently, there has been some talk going back and forth between Tito Ortiz and King Mo. Are you actively working to put that fight together, despite Tito saying he doesn't want it?
Scott Coker: I have yet to really sit down and talk to Tito in person since his fight. We agreed to revisit after the holidays, but we'll get it figured out. I haven't even talked to King Mo about it yet. At the right time, we'll all sit down and talk. If the fight makes sense, then we'll put it together. If not, then we won't.
Bloody Elbow: Any updates on Frodo Khasbulaev's situation with Bellator and are you working on a plan to release him?
Scott Coker: We're speaking to our lawyers again on Monday, but it's just a very unusual process. I've never had a fighter where the visa was revoked or denied, and it's taken so long. I'll probably have more information on Monday.
Bloody Elbow: What is the situation with Joe Schilling's contract?
Scott Coker: Well, Joe is on a multi-fight contract with us, but, in saying that, he also has the right to fight in GLORY as a kickboxer, so we're going to work with GLORY on his schedule, and between the two, he's going to be a very, very busy man.
Bloody Elbow: Are there any plans to maybe include some kickboxing, BJJ or boxing exhibition style fights or superfights on any upcoming Bellator cards?
Scott Coker: I will say this, the door is completely open and through 2015, we'll be navigating through the fight business. Whether it's a kickboxing bout or a Kyokushin karate guy fighting an MMA guy or a kickboxer, or maybe even a boxer, the door is going to be wide open, and if we can put the right scenario together, we'll do it. We want to give the fans the fights they want to see. To me, it doesn't matter what style you come from. If it's something people want to see, then we're going to try to make it happen.
Bloody Elbow: There is quite a bit of speculation that GLORY is having some serious financial issues and may not be around in 2015. Could we see some kickboxing on a more regular basis outside of the occasional superfight?
Scott Coker: I think GLORY is going to be fine. I think they're taking a step back so they can eventually take a step forward. Jon Franklin just took the position as CEO, and I think he'll do a great job. He's very knowledgeable about the fight business, so I think they're going to be just fine and we'll see many years of GLORY kickboxing on SPIKE.
You can follow Scott via his Twitter account, @ScottCoker