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Scott Coker: No Bellator dates for New York yet, but first show will be a ‘mega-fight card’ in the city

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If Scott Coker and Bellator had it their way, next Friday’s Bellator 163 card would have been held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Yet as these things go, there were some snags along the way that redirected the card to the more familiar Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., where Bellator has traditionally held events over the years.

On Wednesday’s conference call with light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary and challenger Phil Davis — who square off in the main event on that Nov. 4 card — Coker said that Bellator’s first foray into New York would be forthcoming, though nothing is definitively set just yet.

"We’re continuing to talk to them, and I know we have a couple of dates on hold," Bellator’s president said. "But as far as the fight [that we’d bring], we want to bring the right fight there. I think if we could have put it together this fight [Davis vs. McGeary] would have been one of the big fights on the card. We’re going to wait, and when we do it we’re going to do it right.

"And for me there’s no timetable, whether it happens in the first quarter of next year or in the summertime. But when we come, I can assure you, we’re going to bring our guns when we come to New York."

New York was the last of the states to sanction mixed martial arts, and in 2016 it was finally legalized. The UFC has its inaugural show slated for Nov. 12  — exactly 23 years after UFC 1 — at the Mecca of sporting events, Madison Square Garden.

The World Series of Fighting has also booked a big card for Dec. 31, which will include four title fights and take place at the MSG Theater. That card will air on NBC.

Many believed that Bellator would try and beat the UFC to the punch, to become the first major promotion to hold an event in the state of New York since 1996. Coker said there was an effort in place, but it just didn’t work out.

"We were trying to work out our schedule with TV, and with the venue, and we just couldn’t put it together," he said during the call. "So, we moved over to the Mohegan Sun, which I think is a great venue, and it’s been an amazing venue for Bellator fights, and we’re going to have a good time next Friday."

One thing that Coker did reiterate was that when Bellator finally makes its way into the Empire State, that it would be in the city — and that it would be a big event.

"We are talking to both venues [Barclays and Madison Square Garden] in New York, in the city there, and I think we will probably go to the city first," he said. "As far as bringing the right fight, I mean, it’s New York, so we’ve got to come strong. There’s some great talent on the roster, and the timing’s going to be the issue of when these guys are going to be available.

"I really don’t have anything to announce as far as timing and who’s going to fight, other than…you’ve seen some of the big mega-fight cards we’ve put together, and we’re going to do the same. And even bigger in New York, because New York’s been waiting, what, 15 or 20 years for an MMA show."

When Coker was the CEO of Strikeforce, his promotion held some of its biggest shows in his hub city of San Jose, Calif. — the same city that he took Bellator’s first big "Dynamite" card back in Sept. 2015. These days, with Bellator owned by Viacom, there could be a coastal swing in play. 

"Viacom is based out of New York City," Coker said. "We’re going to do it right. All those executives at 1515 Broadway from Viacom are going to come to the show, and it’s going to be a great showcase for all the properties. It’s going to be a big planting the flag in the ground for Viacom in New York City."