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Spike TV president: Scott Coker is 'a giant step up' for Bellator MMA

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It has only been about seven months since Scott Coker took the reins of Bellator MMA. But his boss is already giving him rave reviews.

Spike TV president Kevin Kay told MMAFighting.com last week that he believes Coker has put Bellator in a better position to succeed since taking over for Bjorn Rebney last June, for various reasons.

"Fighters just love this guy and camps and management and people, they want to be in business with Coker," Kay said during a media event to promote Premier Boxing Champions on Spike. "They feel like he's honest, he's straightforward, he puts on great fights and he promotes really well. I think it's just a giant step up from where we were and I feel like the organization is in great hands and the future is really bright. I feel like we have a lot of potential to grow now."

Most of all, Kay appreciates that Coker is changing the production quality of Bellator MMA. Bellator 132 on Nov. 15, Coker's first big show as president, was a glimpse into how things will be for future large events -- huge video boards, glitzier promo packages and a new ramp from which fighters enter the arena.

From a fighter's perspective, Bellator is also now a more intriguing destination, according to Kay. The first step for that was to eliminate the tournament structure. Rebney founded Bellator in 2008 with the principle that title shots could only be earned through winning a tournament in that weight class. It was clear as long ago as late 2013 that Spike TV was souring on tournaments and Kay admits now that he wasn't a huge fan of the concept from the get-go.

Kay said that wooing a free agent became tougher, because he or she would have to commit to a tournament -- two-to-three fights in a very small amount of time. And if they lost, they had to go back and do it all over again.

"Now, the gloves are off in a sense," Kay said. "You can go to a guy and say, we can give you three or four fights in a year, but not in a tournament. If you lose, then you have to start from scratch and go back in the tournament. It was so complicated. I feel like we have a tremendous commitment to getting free agents."

Spike and parent company Viacom have always had a commitment to making Bellator as strong as it possibly could. But Kay said that commitment has only been renewed by Coker's presence. Coker has vowed to go after the biggest free agents in the market place, like Brock Lesnar, Gina Carano and even Fedor Emelianenko. Bellator has already signed popular former MMA attraction Kimbo Slice.

"He has the relationships to talk to everybody," Kay said. "He's with Fedor. He's talking to Brock, he's talking to Gina. These are people he's known for years, so we are in a better position to potentially land those people."