In the fierce MMA wars, Scott Coker doesn’t have a lot of time to waste.
The new president of Bellator has another shot at toppling the UFC, the sport’s biggest MMA promotion. As founder and president of Strikeforce, Coker put the San Jose-based company on the map and gave the UFC a run for its money, albeit for a short period of time.
The UFC eventually convinced Coker’s Strikeforce investors to sell the company and Strikeforce was merged with the UFC, before it eventually folded.
Now Coker is in the game again.
Here are three thinks the quiet, but popular promoter can do to quickly jumpstart Bellator, which is badly in need of some brand recognition.
3. Sign Ben Askren
Bellator botched Askren worse than Peyton Manning botched the first snap in the Super Bowl. Askren, the company’s then-welterweight champion, left the company in hopes of getting signed by the UFC. Instead, he signed with OneFC, and one of the best wrestlers in MMA is now not fighting in one of the sport’s top two promotions.
The undefeated Askren (13-0) belongs on the national stage. He left Bellator as champion and was one of the organization’s most dominant fighters. Somehow Bellator let Askren, one of the only authentic stars who rose out of Bellator, walk away. Coker needs to get him back and put him on display as the company’s best fighter. What’s the point of making stars if you can’t keep them?
2. Bring back WMMA
It made no sense when Bellator dropped WMMA. Ronda Rousey was at the height of her popularity and women’s MMA was booming. With WMMA on the rise, Bellator chose to go the other direction and drop WMMA. In doing so, Bellator essentially handed the UFC tens-of-millions of dollars in revenue. UFC partnered with Invicta FC and now the UFC has a dominant market position on WMMA. Bellator could have had a piece of that pie.
Bellator needs to jump back in the game. They won’t be able to sign the top female stars for now, but just having another non-UFC backed place to fight will be good for WMMA and give the fighters competitive options as they look to build their careers and the WMMA brand.
1. Sign Mike Tyson as Bellator ambassador
Bellator needs to get people to notice immediately. Only the most hardcore MMA fans even know what Bellator is. Bellator needs to hot-shot an angle so that the mainstream media will pay attention to Bellator. In the 1980s Vince McMahon signed Mr. T to appear at Wrestlemania to get the media to pay attention. On the same original Wrestlemania card, McMahon hired Muhammad Ali and Cyndi Lauper. It was a bit of a freak show with a bunch of celebrities, but the media paid attention.
Tyson has already showed an interest in MMA. He is perhaps the fighting’s biggest name of the last 30 years. Bellator should bring him and have him serve as an cageside analyst. Tyson’s involvement would bring Bellator credibility. Once Tyson was involved other celebrities would hop on. What would happen if Bellator signed Tyson, Oscar de la Hoya and Evander Holyfield to serve as MMA ambassadors of the Bellator brand?
Bellator has an opportunity to be the fresh face of MMA. Coker will need to take risks that will shock people if he wants to compete with the UFC on the national stage.