Bellator MMA, regarded by many as the number 2 mixed martial arts promotion in the country may have a different look and feel here in the immediate future as there has been a major shuffle at the top of the corporate power structure by parent company Viacom/CBS.
Scott Coker remains the President of the organization, at least for now, but will now report to Showtime President Stephen Espinoza under the new corporate power structure.
Espinoza’s claim to fame has been running Showtime boxing for years, including acquiring the rights to broadcast Floyd Mayweather Jr’s fights is no stranger to the world of mixed martial arts as, during his tenure with the network, he was involved with Strikeforce being broadcast on the premium cable network. Which means he is no stranger to the product of mixed martial arts, nor the man running the show in Scott Coker.
Espinoza received quite a lot of screen time during the build-up to the Conor McGregor Floyd Mayweather Jr. boxing match. He did not sell well with the mixed martial arts community including McGregor and UFC President Dana White.
Coming across as somewhat clueless about the business of mixed martial arts during the whole McGregor-Mayweather show, it’s going to be interesting to see him be in front of cameras promoting mixed martial arts exclusively. Yes, as this change takes effect we will see a lot more of him and hear a lot more from him as he attempts to put his stamp on the Bellator product.
Make no mistake about him, Espinoza is a savvy business man in the world of combat sports. While his focus has been primarily on boxing, he will adapt to this business model and bring some of his knowledge in promotions and the over all business of combat sports to Bellator.
Some folks that I’ve spoken with about this new hierarchy seem to think that this bold move may signal the beginning of the end for the tenure of Coker as Bellator’s President, and part of me agrees with that sentiment.
Any moves that Coker intends to make have to be brought to Espinoza for approval. Coker is a proud man and when he sold Strikeforce, a promotion that he started from the ground up to the UFC, while he was retained as a “figurehead” leader at best, you were able to see that he is not one who likes working for somebody else, and understandably so. He built Strikeforce from nothing into a competitor of the UFC which is why they bought him out.
Espinoza is no stranger to over hyping, circus-like happenings in the world of boxing, with that being said, I believe as he starts to implement his vision, we will see less of the circus type bookings that we’ve become accustomed to and more fights that mean something in every division’s title picture.
I am completely interested in seeing where they are headed. I feel that one of the reasons this move was made is because the powers that be may have lost faith in Coker and his vision. They have a lot of underused talent on the roster that isn’t promoted properly because of Coker’s love of putting former stars a.k.a old guys in main events, and other fighters on the roster not getting enough work during the year, Not to mention the fact that he was unable to retain the services of Rory MacDonald, who recently left the promotion to sign a deal with what many feel may become the new number 2 promotion in the Pro Fight League(PFL).
The loss of one of their biggest stars and crown jewel acquisitions in MacDonald combined with some really bad bookings in the opinion of many in the community, surely had something to do in my opinion with the restructuring.
We could actually see the promotion resurface on both CBS and Showtime and quite possibly completely move away from broadcasting on the Paramount network.
Only time will tell if this new move at the top of the organization will help or hurt the promotion. Either way it will be interesting to watch, stay tuned!
Christopher James has been in the MMA industry for 15 years, Working as a ring announcer for promotions like the XFC, Island Fights, Combat Night and Fight Nights Global during his career. Chris’ love for the sport and the athletes that partake in it led him to writing and doing face to face interviews with the athletes he admired and respected. Chris isn’t conventional by any stretch of the imagination, he has his own style, and takes pride in not being a “cookie-cutter” member of the media. Unique and sometimes controversial takes are what he brings to the table, forcing folks to think a little differently about the world of MMA. He also has a love for music as he has been a dj for 25 years and his love for music gets brought to the MMA world when he gets his guests to sing on his weekly show Cage Side with Christopher James which can be seen Wednesday nights on FACEBOOK LIVE, and soon via podcast.