Scott Coker talks Bellator Dynamite ratings, Fedor Emelianenko, plans for 2016, and more
Bellator expected a big response for its most ambitious show to date, and in a way it got what it wanted. Bellator: Dynamite 1 smashed company records for live gate and live attendance.
But the marriage between kickboxing and MMA didn't exactly translate to television success, as the Sept. 19 event averaged just 800,000 viewers on Spike TV -- a figure which actually fell below the company's 892,000 average in the Scott Coker era.
"Well, listen, we had some heavy competition that night," Coker said Monday on The MMA Hour. "Were the ratings lower than they were with Kimbo Slice? Yeah, they were. But I look at the ratings as an overall ratings for the year, and we're still up 34-percent from before I took the helm, and our paid attendance is up 78-percent since I took the helm a year and a couple months ago.
"So this is a brand that's definitely made a big change, and just the philosophy of working with the guys inside the company now has changed. Working with Viacom, that relationship has changed. Even with Spike, the relationship has changed. We're all on the same page, there's a lot of congruency here, and we're going to do a lot of great things. And think about this: it's only been a year, pretty much. Right? It's been a year, and we're doing some fantastic things here in mixed martial arts. Give me another year, give me two more years, we're going to make some good things happen."
Aside from ratings, Coker covered a wide spectrum of topics during his 20-minute appearance on the show, hitting everything from Bellator's plans in 2016 to the future of Kimbo Slice. (Hint: it has nothing to do with Fedor Emelianenko.) An assemblage of notable excerpts from the conversation can be read below.
On future Dynamite events
"When we mapped it all out, I felt like it was a great plan. But I think we maybe had one fight, maybe two fights too long. And we have to take that into consideration next time. But I think GLORY kickboxing did well, and that was the beauty of this thing. Here is a brand that's on Spike, that's on Friday Night Lights Out, and now they get to have the MMA audience watch some great world-class kickboxing, and vice versa."
On Fedor Emelianenko's return
"We didn't really go after Fedor and we never really negotiated with him. Never. We never made an offer for Fedor, and the reason was that we knew (Nobuyuki) Sakakibara was coming back. We knew that he was in the running for Fedor's services and that he wanted him really bad, so we just kind of stood down. What we did do is we said, â€˜okay, let's be your broadcast partner.' Kevin (Kay), John (Cucci), and Sakakibara cut a deal where they would broadcast the event from Tokyo.
"I think [Sakakibara] had the inside track and I know that they worked extremely hard to negotiate with him. I think [Fedor] has a certain comfort level working with their team, and I think he has a certain comfort level working with our team, so don't be surprised if you see Fedor here in the future in some fights. But for the first one, we thought we should stand down and we should let Sakakibara do his thing."
On rumors that Randy Couture is Emelianenko's next fight
"No, that's not the fight.
"Actually I don't know (who the opponent is). I think they're trying to put it together right now."
On disgruntled lightweight champ Will Brooks
"The thing is, we've done this dance. Not just with Will but with a lot of different fighters. They start getting into training mode and they start putting their head on to get ready for a fight and start getting a little bit meaner. This is just something we've seen over the past 30 years of being a fighter.
"This is not something that's uncommon, so I wouldn't just say this is a Will Brooks situation. I think a lot of fighters go through this, so he's putting his game face on. He's got a big fight coming up. (Marcin) Held is a guy who's proven to be extremely dangerous, and Will is going to go do his thing."
On Phil Davis' future
"That's what I love about the tournament we just had. Now we ended up not just with one big fight between Phil and Liam (McGeary), but what about â€˜King Mo' versus Phil? That's the fight that didn't happen. So now we have two fights. We reshuffle the deck, we end up with two fights out of that night. So I'm extremely happy about that.
"I think we'll probably have that fight (McGeary vs. Davis) sometime in the second quarter of next year."
On heavyweight champ Vitali Minakov fighting last week on UFC Fight Pass
"I know that he's fighting in some fights for a company out of Russia, so we're in dialogue with [his manager] and hopefully we'll have him back sooner than later.
"Maybe he needed a couple tune-up fights? I haven't talked to [his manager] directly, but I know that (Bellator matchmaker) Rich (Chou) has been in touch with him, and maybe when he gets a couple more fights, he'll come back and defend his title."
On a timetable for Josh Koscheck vs. Paul Daley 2
"You'll see that fight in mid-2016 between Koscheck and Daley. We're going to want time to promote that properly and really build it up and really make it a big show, because I think that's one of the fights that we're going to have a lot of eyeballs on."
On Melvin Manhoef's future
"He wasn't allowed to fight for, I think, six or eight months. And I know that Melvin likes to fight a lot, so we were watching, saying, â€˜hey, you know, you've gotta stay low. You can't go take these other fights sometimes like you like to. The whole world is watching.' I know that we're going to send him to the clinic when he gets here, going to make sure that he's medically cleared, but all of my indicators are that he should be fine.
"But when a fighter gets to that point where they've been knocked out a certain amount of times, I think we've really gotta put the brakes on it. This is a big fight for Melvin (on Nov. 20) and if he gets stopped again, maybe it's time to have that talk with him."
On potential changes in 2016
"We now, I feel, have turned a corner and we're going to continue doing big tentpole events. We're going to probably add a couple more. Instead of doing four, we might go to seven or eight next year, and we're going to continue growing this brand. We got Spike behind us. There's a great feeling here."