Scott Coker is a renowned mixed martial arts promoter, having founded Strikeforce, and is the current president of Bellator MMA.
In this episode of London Real, Scott joins Brian Rose in the studio to discuss the Gracie family and their impact on Mixed Martial Arts, the deal to sell Strikeforce to the UFC and his vision for Bellator moving forwards.
Scott Coker’s journey in combat sports began with his involvement in kickboxing promotions during the 1980s. However, it was in 1985 that he truly made his mark when he founded Strikeforce, a promotion that would become synonymous with high-level MMA events. Under Coker’s guidance, Strikeforce gained recognition for promoting some of the most compelling matchups in the sport.
During his tenure at Strikeforce, Coker played a pivotal role in bringing together a roster of top-tier fighters, cultivating a promotion that rivalled established organisations. Strikeforce showcased legends such as Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson, and Nick Diaz, creating a platform for these athletes to shine and captivating audiences with memorable events.
Strikeforce’s success was not only attributed to the calibre of fighters but also to Coker’s ability to conceptualise and execute innovative events. Notably, Strikeforce hosted the first major MMA event to be broadcast on a major network, featuring the iconic matchup between Frank Shamrock and Cesar Gracie on Showtime in 2007.
In 2011, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) parent company, Zuffa, acquired Strikeforce. While the promotion ceased to exist as a standalone entity, Coker’s influence endured, and his impact on the MMA landscape remained significant. After a brief hiatus from the MMA scene, Coker returned in 2014, taking the helm of Bellator MMA.
Under Scott Coker’s leadership, Bellator has undergone a transformation that reinvigorated the promotion and positioned it as a formidable force in the MMA world. Coker has implemented strategic changes, embracing a tournament format, signing high-profile free agents, and expanding the promotion’s international footprint.
One of the key innovations Coker has introduced to Bellator was the revival of tournament-style competition. This format, reminiscent of the early days of MMA, added an element of unpredictability and excitement. Notable tournaments, or Grand Prixs, such as the Heavyweight World Grand Prix and the Featherweight World Grand Prix, showcased the depth of talent in Bellator and captivated fans with thrilling matchups.
Coker’s tenure at Bellator has been characterised by a willingness to showcase legendary fighters and explore cross-promotional opportunities. Bellator signed iconic fighters like Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, providing a platform for these veterans to continue their storied careers. Additionally, Bellator collaborated with Rizin Fighting Federation in Japan for cross-promotional events, creating unique matchups that captured the imagination of MMA enthusiasts.
Scott Coker’s vision for Bellator extends beyond traditional MMA boundaries. He envisions Bellator as a global brand that not only delivers high-quality events but also provides a platform for fighters to build their brands and legacies. His commitment to innovation, coupled with a respect for the sport’s history and its legends, has contributed to Bellator’s rise in prominence.
Scott Coker’s impact on the world of mixed martial arts is undeniable. From his pioneering days with Strikeforce to his revitalisation of Bellator MMA, Coker has consistently demonstrated a keen understanding of the sport’s dynamics. His ability to combine innovative ideas, strategic thinking, and a genuine passion for the fighters and the fans has solidified his legacy as a visionary leader in the ever-evolving landscape of mixed martial arts.