When major sports leagues began calling off their respective events upon the COVID-19 outbreak, Bellator was the first of the first MMA promotions to follow suit. CEO Scott Coker decided to postpone Bellator 241, which was then scheduled for March 13th at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
As he stated in a recent interview with DAZN News, Coker’s main concern at the time was his employees, who were getting worried about how the situation was turning out to be.
“It seemed like the virus started to affect some of our staff. What I mean by that is, we had a meeting where I said, ‘Look, if you guys are uncomfortable, you guys can go home,’” Coker explained. “Some of our staff was wanting to get home and get back with their families, and it started affecting the team.
“We didn’t know what the President was going to say on Friday. People thought it was going to be a lockdown of domestic travel, and so people start freaking out about how am I going to get home?
“We have international fighters. It started becoming an uncomfortable situation all the way around. We shut it down at that point.”
Despite the cancellation, Coker decided to compensate everyone involved, from the fighters down to the staff who were set to work that night. What mattered to him the most is the health and well-being of his people.
“I feel like this is something I’m responsible for. How would I want to be treated in a sense?” Coker said. “Yes, there is a bottom-line number that we have to generate. It is a business. There’s a profit/loss at the end of the year. To me, this is revenue that we’ll be able to make up at some point. I feel good about saying that.
”If someone were to get sick, infected, something should happen, I would not be able to live with myself because I made the call,” he continued. ”Numbers are numbers, but this is a people business. Business is about people. This is something that I’ve always believed in. That’s how I run my fight companies over all the years.
”To cancel that ... this is the first one ever for me in the fight business. It was the right call to make.”
This week, Bellator announced the postponements of all its events lined up for the month of May. Their counterparts over at the UFC are dead-set on pushing through with their April event despite the pandemic.