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Scott Coker opens up about Japanese MMA, CM Punk, Brooks vs. Aoki, MMA free agency and more

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bellator President Scott Coker has been busy recently, but carved out time on Tuesday to speak to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. Both Bellator and the sport of mixed martial arts are in transition, but Coker shares both his bird's eye view of what's going on as well as some specific moves his organization is making in the industry.


On Douglas Lima pulling out of the Paul Daley fight with an injury:

"Yes, that fight is off. Lima got injured, so he's off the fight. We're probably six or eight hours away from announcing Paul's new opponent, but we'll announce it later today when we get everything back."

"You know what? I think the main event now is going to be a fight between Emanuel Newton and Liam McGeery. That fight deserves to be in the main event. It's a title fight. So, we'll probably go with that as the main event."

"My understanding is he'll be out for two or three months and then he'll be back. Hopefully, by summer time we'll have him in a big fight with the winner of the Daley fight."

"We're not going to put Paul in there with just anybody. He's a world-class competitor at the highest level. Probably the best striker in MMA. At least one of the best strikers in MMA. We're going to put him in there with a tough opponent, test him out and the winner can fight Lima when Lima's ready."

On Mo Lawal fighting Cheick Kongo at heavyweight at Bellator 134:

"This is something he's been asking me for probably the last five months. He'd say, 'Hey, I want to go up to heavyweight. I want to fight there'. He said eventually he wants to drop to 185 [pounds]...He said, 'I can beat anyone in the heavyweight division. I can beat anyone in the 185-pound weight class.' He feels he could be the complete fighter at 205, heavyweight and 185."

"He said if it ever came up, he'd love to fight Cheick Kongo. I said, 'Here you go. Let's get it on.'"

"Let's just see what happens with the fight. This is something that caught Cheick Kongo a little off guard, too. He kept asking us, 'Are you sure this is a heavyweight division fight?' He didn't believe Mo wanted to come up."

"I'm going to take a look at the fight and see how it goes for King Mo and if he performs well, we'll give him some more heavyweight fights if he wants them."

On a potential Will Brooks vs. Shinya Aoki bout:

"If that's something Will really wants, we can start working towards that. I just didn't know if that was important to him. We have a good relationship with ONE FC and I know Shinya fights in IGF as well. I can make a couple of calls and see what we can put together."

On his visit to Japan and the state of MMA in that country:

"To see K-1 in its heyday, to see PRIDE in its heyday, I think the new fans today are really missing out because it was something special, something spectacular. They just had that 'wow' factor."

"I went to a couple of fights, actually three different events in five days....I met with some of the key players in that industry. You and I talked about Sakakibara and his mounting comeback. I met IGF people. I sat down with Fedor [Emelianenko], just a lot of different fighters. It was a great time and I'm glad I did it because as dominant as Japan was in the past, there's a place for them in the world of mixed martial arts to make a resurgence and I think that what Sakakibara is working on over there is very special. He's going to come out with a big bang before the end of the year."

"I think anyone who can promote a fight on New Year's Eve and sell tickets and actually have people show up and then throw a fight the night before and then a boxing match the night before and then a kickboxing fight - a new show called Blade - the night before that...I mean, here's a country that's, the word I would use is sleeping. They're waiting for the next resurgence of a Japanese MMA promotion."

On the possibility of Fedor Emelianenko's return to MMA:

"I've had a conversation and he made it very clear. 'Right now, I'm not interested in fighting.' He definitely wants to stay involved in Russia and that's his primary goal right now. Whether he changes his mind or not later, that's going to be up to him, but it doesn't hurt to ask."

"We talked about a lot of different things. We talked about the temperature of doing a Bellator show in Russia. He's very politically connected there. I think he works for Vladimir Putin running the Russian MMA program, mostly as an amateur ambassador."

On Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson's first announced UFC fight since leaving Bellator:

"I wish I could comment, but I just can't comment on something that's been turned over to the attorneys. I just can't comment on that. I've been told to stand down and I'm going to have to stand down on commenting."

"In this sport, nothing surprises me anymore."

On negotiations to sign Mirko CroCop:

"I talked to my guys today and I'm not sure if we're going to get there. There's a certain amount that a fighter - even as great was Mirko was - the value is worth a certain point and I think that he'll end up elsewhere and we wish him luck."

On Bellator 132's results:

"I thought it was a great show. I think the talent in the featherweight division in Bellator is as good as any league out there. These guys are world class fighters who'll fight anybody. That fight had a lot of adversity for Pitbull, went back and forth and had some penalties along the way, but at the end of the day, you saw some world-class fighting at the highest level and I'm proud of those guys."

"With Georgi 'K' against Bubba, I didn't really know what to expect. I'd never really seen Georgi 'K' fight before. It seems to me this guy is a stud and he's going to do a lot of great things. We'll do the fight with him and Pitbull at the end of the summer."

On the free agent market today:

"There's going to be free agent who come up time to time. It's going to be our job to build these fighters from the ground up that we have, and keep building them and keep building them. What a great platform we have with Spike TV to keep building these new stars."

"It kinda reminds me of Strikeforce, really. We bought a few free agents. It's not just us going after them. Believe me, they're calling us. This is not a one-way street where we're just going after fighters. We're going to win some. We're going to lose some. That's just how the nature of this beast is going to be."

"If you're a free agent out there or you're going to become a free agent, you're going to talk to everybody. You're going to want to use your leverage to get the best deal you can. We're in a position now with the Viacom ownership group, there's not going to be any fighter that's out of the price range."

"If we feel the deal's right and the fighter's right, we're going to do it."

On whether Bellator ever had interest in signing CM Punk:

"We had talked about it, honestly, but we never reached out to him or made that call. We were not in dialogue with him by any means. It was just like, 'He's never had a fight before. You think he really wants to fight?' I didn't even know if he really, really wanted to fight, so let's see. Let's see how he does in his debut."

...and Alberto del Rio:

"I'm not sure. From everything I understand, he's still pro wrestling and he's very busy pro wrestling. Even though he's had some great MMA fights - he fought a couple of big names - at the end of the day, it's a different sport completely."

"To me, I know that they're still in dialogue, but is he going to become a MMA fighter? That I cannot answer."

On whether there are fighters who Bellator wants to sign that are currently available:

"That's an internal list that we'll keep internal. Like I said, we're still talking to people, but there's some free agent activity. There'll be some more free agents throughout the year. At the end of the day, we gotta build from the ground up. That's something we were really good at doing in the past."

"If you look at the guys who came from Strikeforce, we built a good foundation of stars who came from within. I really think that's important. We're focusing a lot of energy on that with Bellator."

"We'll build from the ground up and we'll buy from the top down and that's going to be our league."

On the state of Bellator's women's division:

"I know we're signing some girls right now. We're going to keep growing the 145-pound weight class and don't be surprised by the end of the year if we add another division."

"This is something we're going to get behind. That excitement level has not gone away. We're going to continue signing to the 145-pound weight class and we're in dialogue with a couple that we should probably have something to announce in the next couple of weeks."

On whether Gina Carano will return to MMA:

"She's doing movies with Robert DeNiro. Why does she want to get punched in the face?"

On Bellator signing Kimbo Slice:

"We're going to do some fun fights. Spike guys came up and said, 'What about Kimbo?' Let's say as far as a ratings deliverer, he's bigger than anybody else whether it's was on CBS or whether it was Spike TV. I was his ratings. The guy can deliver superstar ratings."

"We don't have an opponent yet, but I've had 200 people emailing me saying, 'Please let me fight Kimbo Slice.' "

"I think we're going to have a dialogue with Kimbo and if he's comfortable, we're probably have his debut in Bellator in the summer time."

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