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Bellator plans to crown flyweight and featherweight women's champions in 2016

Esther Lin photo

Bellator CEO Scott Coker pioneered the promotion of women's mixed martial arts. His previous company, Strikeforce, presented the first major card headlined by a women's title fight in 2009 when Gina Carano met Cyborg Justino.

So it should come as no surprise that Coker continues to blaze trails with Bellator. In a Thursday interview, Coker told MMAFighting.com that the company plans on instituting flyweight and featherweight women's titles in 2016.

"That's definitely in the plans," said Coker. "We're committed. You're going to see champions in both weight classes."

Bellator has made several signings in the 125-pound weight class in recent months, the most notable of which is Ukranian standout Lena Ovchynnikova (10-3), who debuts at Bellator 150, a former kickboxing standout who meets Rebecca Ruth at Bellator 150.

Additional fighters of note at 125 include Ilima MacFarlane, the fighter of San Diego "soccer mom" viral video notoriety, who competes Friday at Bellator 148 in Fresno, and Keri Melendez, the wife of Gilbert Melendez, whose previous experience is in kickboxing.

"We're aggressively signing talent at 125 pounds," Coker said. "Things have to play out a bit, but by the summer, we should be in position start the process on crowning a champion."

Things are more cut-and-dried at 145 pounds, the home of veterans Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd. Coenen, the former Strikeforce bantamweight champ, is 2-0 in Bellator, with her last bout a submission win over Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 141. Budd (8-2) has won six straight fights since a 2011 loss to Ronda Rousey and called out Coenen after defeating Roberta Rovel at Bellator 146.

As soon as Coenen gets the go-ahead, expect Coenen vs. Budd for the 145-pound title.

"The only holdup on Marloes vs. Julia is that Marloes has been injured. She'll be cleared soon. They'll fight for the title, if things go well it could be as early as April."

Under previous CEO Bjorn Rebney, Bellator dabbled in women's fighting and crowned a strawweight champion in Zoila Gurgel before abruptly abandoning women's divisions in 2013.

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