Scott Coker’s comments after Bellator 281 and judging in MMA

This past Friday at Bellator 281, the interim welterweight title was on the line. One of the more exciting fighters in the division, Michael “Venom” Page (20-2), was seeking to become interim champion as he took on Logan Storley (14-1).

Both men came into Bellator 281 riding winning streaks. For MVP, he had won six fights in a row after suffering his only career loss to Douglas Lima. Meanwhile, Storley came into the contest riding a two-fight winning streak after losing his first career bout to Yaroslav Amosov.

Speaking of Amosov, the undisputed Bellator champion was supposed to face MVP last Friday. However, he’s currently working to defend his home of Ukraine from oncoming Russian invasions. As a result, Storley stepped in to face MVP for the interim title.

This was a classic striker versus wrestler matchup. Unfortunately, there are times where these kind of matchups generate an extremely boring affair and that is what happened at Bellator 281. When the fight was on the feet, MVP was able to land some solid shots that got the crowd excited.

However, the majority of the fight saw Storley shooting in for takedowns and holding MVP in place. After five rounds, the fight went to the scorecards. Storley was able to secure a solid amount of takedowns, but he never did anything with them. He more just held MVP in place and did zero damage.

With that, there were a lot of questions regarding how the decision would go. In the end, two of the three judges gave the fight and the Bellator interim welterweight title to Logan Storley. MVP suffered his second career loss and the fans were not thrilled with the headliner.

Bellator 281 Fallout

Someone else who didn’t seem thrilled with the headliner was Bellator president Scott Coker. Coker had his post-fight press conference and he seemed uncharacteristically annoyed by the results of the main event at Bellator 281. Coker is normally a guy who doesn’t show a ton of emotion.

Quite the opposite of UFC president Dana White. However, Coker couldn’t hold his tongue after this one. “Honestly, I thought that MVP won that fight,” Coker said. He continued, “You can’t just lay on somebody. You’re not doing any damage, you’re not getting closer to a submission, you’re not creating any threat. You’re just laying on somebody — and to me, that’s not MMA.”

It was honestly a breath of fresh air to hear that from Coker after Bellator 281 and I think it sheds a light on a greater issue with MMA and scoring. Right now, I think there’s too much credit given to fighters who just land takedowns and do nothing with them.

Not trying to disrespect the great wrestlers in the sport, but this is not wrestling, this is MMA. You’re supposed to use wrestling to secure a dominant position then look for ways to inflict damage or secure a submission. In the case of the new interim Bellator champion, he did nothing. He just secured a takedown and laid there.

A change in philosophy?

In cases like this, I would actually lean towards scoring a round for the guy on the bottom if the guy on the bottom was pulling a Tony Ferguson and throwing a lot of elbows. Takedowns are a big part of scoring, but they have to mean something and I think it needs to be addressed.

Not sure if things are going to change, but if so, wrestlers are going to have to adapt. Bellator 281 was a classic example of how judging shouldn’t be done. Logan Storley won a wrestling match, but can we honestly say that he won the fight?

What are your thoughts on the topic?

Fedor turned back the clock at Bellator 269

Fedor Emelianenko

This past Saturday in the main event of Bellator 269, Fedor Emelianenko (40-6) returned home to Russia to take on the tough Tim Johnson (15-8). Despite fighting in his homeland, many considered Fedor to be the underdog on Saturday night.

Johnson had a sensational 2020 that led him to an interim Bellator heavyweight title fight earlier this year. Meanwhile Fedor has struggled with Bellator heavyweights having gone just 3-2 leading up to Saturday night.

That said, there was still some mystique surrounding The Last Emperor as he walked to the cage on Saturday. The Russian crowd all on their feet with their eyes glued on their national hero who put Russian MMA on the map.

The fight started out with Fedor bouncing on his toes with his hands low. He looked good and was still looking to fight with the same style he had been fighting with his entire career. There were a few exchanges between him and Johnson where it looked like either man could’ve won by knockout had they landed.

Then, just a few minutes into the first at Bellator 269, Fedor turned back the clock. A beautiful left hook followed by a blistering right flattened Tim Johnson. No follow up shots were needed as Fedor picked up the KO win as the Russian crowd erupted.

What’s next after Bellator 269?

Scott Coker said last week that Saturday night was the first leg of a two-fight retirement tour for Fedor. Fedor is wrapping up his historic career with Bellator, but there is no word yet on who Fedor will fight in his next matchup.

Coker told the media on Saturday that Fedor will likely fight early next year or in the spring. That is when we will see Fedor compete for the final time in the Bellator cage. Fedor told the media afterwards that he needs to discuss his fighting future with his family.

To me, it’s going to be interesting to see who Bellator pairs him with. Honestly, Saturday night would’ve been the perfect fight to walk away on. A huge knockout win over a top contender in his home country. However, that doesn’t appear to be the plan and we should know sooner than later when we’ll see Fedor for the final time.

Bellator made a mistake with AJ McKee and Patricio Pitbull

AJ McKee

Last week, Scott Coker appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour where he broke some Bellator news. One of the key pieces of news that he announced was that Patricio Pitbull (32-5) would be vacating the lightweight title to stay at featherweight.

His brother, Patricky Pitbull, would be fighting in November for the vacant lightweight title. This decision has been rumored for some time, but it wasn’t official until last week. Patricky is one of the top lightweights but with his brother holding the title, he was blocked.

Now with Patricio Pitbull giving up the Bellator title, Patricky will have his chance. Pitbull gave up the title in order to stay at his natural weight class of 145 pounds. He’s focused on getting a rematch with the champion, AJ McKee (18-0).

McKee and Pitbull met at Bellator 263 at the end of July. They met in the finals of the Featherweight Grand Prix with the title on the line. McKee completely dominated the fight and submitted Pitbull in the first round.

Given the career success of Pitbull in Bellator, everyone assumed that a rematch between the two would be next. However, the debate was around which weight class it would take place at. They fought at featherweight, but there was an option to run it back at 155.

Bellator’s Mistake

Coker told Helwani that Bellator is currently working booking the rematch between McKee and Pitbull. I don’t disagree with the booking and in fact, I believe it’s the right fight to make. However, I don’t like the decision to do it at featherweight.

AJ McKee has massive star potential for Bellator. He’s fought his entire career with the promotion and his star is just now really starting to shine. Yes, they didn’t fight long in the first fight, but I think it’s safe to say that McKee will be a sizeable favorite when they fight again.

If I was in the Bellator front office, I would have tried to make the fight happen at lightweight. McKee wants to move up eventually and this would’ve given him the opportunity to become the promotion’s champ-champ.

On one hand, I understand the logic of having them fight at 145 again. Pitbull was the greatest featherweight in the promotion’s history and he’s really never been a lightweight. He simply moved up to fight Michael Chandler and avenge a loss that his brother had.

If McKee defeats Pitbull again at 145, he will have taken over as the promotion’s greatest featherweight and then he can do whatever he wants. I understand both sides of the issue, I just wish Bellator would’ve booked the champion vs champion rematch. It’s the bigger fight with more on the line.

Bellator announces move to five-round main events

Bellator was in the news yesterday with President Scott Coker having appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour. Coker was on the show to break a number of different news items including a couple of title fights.

However, Coker did announce that the promotion was making a big move in the way that they do main events. Bellator is now going to model in the UFC in that they will have five-round main events moving forward in 2022.

The UFC made this switch a few years ago and it’s been a big success for fans. Bellator has seen a number of great fights over the last couple of years in main events, but fans always felt a little let down with the three-round structure.

One thing that might’ve started this change process is the fight between Yoel Romero and Phil Davis a few weeks ago. After the fight concluded, Romero was confused because he thought their Bellator main event was five rounds.

Bellator’s Change

A confused Romero walked to the center of the octagon where Phil Davis won by split decision. Now, Romero has always been one of those guys who can explode and do something remarkable at any second.

Perhaps if their fight was two more rounds, he could’ve won his Bellator debut. Nevertheless, the rules are what they are and Romero fell short. Bellator had been kicking the tires on this change for some time and that might’ve been one of the things that pushed them over the edge.

As mentioned, this change will start at the beginning of 2022. Last week at Bellator 267, MVP edged out Douglas Lima in their rematch. Again, this was another three-round main event and there was so much talk about how this fight should’ve been five rounds.

There’s already internal conversations at Bellator regarding the trilogy between Page and Lima. I could see the promotion having the trilogy between the two as one of the first non-title five-round main events.

Fedor Emelianenko to make his Bellator return later this year (Report)

Fedor Emelianenko

One of the greatest fighters of all time will be returning to the Bellator cage later this year. Ariel Helwani was the first to report today that Fedor Emelianenko (39-6, 1 NC) will be returning to action in October.

According to Helwani, there is a press conference tomorrow at 11 AM ET to announce the Bellator return of Fedor. At this time, there is no opponent set for the legend’s return, but the promotion is working on a fight for Fedor now.

We have not seen Fedor since Bellator 237. That night, he took on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the main event. Emelianenko was able to secure a first round TKO finish just halfway through the opening frame in his last performance.

Overall, that brought Emelianenko’s record to 3-2 inside the Bellator cage. Scott Coker has been hinting that Fedor’s next fight would be his retirement fight. The promotion wanted to do a big event in Russia with a full audience.

Of course, the pandemic has thrown everything off. Emelianenko has not fought since December of 2019 and he will be 45 years old by the time he makes his next Bellator walk in October.

Bellator’s Plans

There are several options for Bellator in terms of opponents. A couple of options off the top of my head would be guys like Cheick Kongo and Josh Barnett. However, there are a number of heavyweights that I’m sure would be willing to fight Fedor Emelianenko.

One thing we should all be thankful for is that Emelianenko is healthy and ready to fight again. Earlier this year, Emelianenko was hospitalized due to COVID-19. Some fighters have been hit with COVID worse than others and Emelianenko had a relatively severe case.

However, the Bellator heavyweight is healthy and ready to go for his October return. We should know more tomorrow at the press-conference, but my guess is that this will be his final fight of his career.

It’s been an incredible career for Fedor Emelianenko. At one time, he was considered to be the best in the world and the greatest heavyweight of all time. His success in Pride was unmatched, but he’s never really endured the same success in the US.

While fighting for Strikeforce and Bellator, the all time great has a record of just 4-5. Now, he did have five straight wins with other promotions, but he hasn’t seen a ton of success in the US. No matter who he fights, there will be a lot of fans watching whenever Fedor makes the walk again.

Bellator looking at signing Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos

Bellator is looking to potentially add two of the greatest heavyweights in MMA history. Scott Coker said today that the promotion was looking at potentially signing Alistair Overeem (47-19, 1 NC) and Junior Dos Santos (21-9).

Both heavyweights were released by the UFC in early March. Releasing Dos Santos made sense for the UFC seeing as he’d lost four in a row, but many were caught off guard with their decision to release Overeem.

Nevertheless, both heavyweights have been on the open market for a month and Scott Coker is interested in both of them. Bellator‘s heavyweight division is really nothing to write home about.

Their heavyweight champion is a natural light heavyweight in Ryan Bader and there’s not a lot of star power there. The only real star in their heavyweight division is a 44 year old Fedor Emelianenko (39-6, 1 NC).

Coker said that Bellator isn’t interested in long term deals, but he’s definitely interested in those two. He said, “We’re not going to sign these guys to, like, a two-year, six-fight deal or build them up. They’ve already proved themselves. They are legends of the sport already. But what I will say is we do have legends of the sport here. If we go down the road, and we think a Fedor opponent will work, Alistair and Fedor will be very interesting to me. Junior Dos Santos and Fedor will be very interesting to me.”

Will Bellator book one against Fedor?

Bellator has been looking at fights for Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor is looking for a final fight and the promotion wants to make it a big deal. They’ve even had preliminary discussions around having an event in Russia with a full crowd.

Fedor has faced many of the greats, but he hasn’t faced either Alistair Overeem nor Junior Dos Santos. Him and Overeem came close to fighting in Strikeforce, but the fight never materialized.

Now, Bellator can make it happen. Of course, there’s also the former UFC heavyweight champion in JDS. Both fights are interesting to Coker and I believe both would interest fans. Yes, none of them are in their primes anymore, but I think a lot of fans would still tune in.

Bellator announces move to Showtime and Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

Bellator MMA has been relatively quiet since the calendar moved over to 2021. However, they’ve been making big moves behind the scenes that would further the promotion’s vision in 2021.

Today, Bellator announced that they have agreed to a deal with Showtime and Showtime will now become the exclusive home for their events. Just last year, Bellator announced they had a deal with CBS Sports Network, but the Viacom promotion is shifting gears.

Showtime decided to get involved and both sides agreed that it would be best to move the promotion to Showtime. Bellator will also be moving their events back to Friday nights after a brief stint on Thursdays.

In addition to announcing the new deal with Showtime, Scott Coker announced some exciting news in terms of the light heavyweight division. By far, the light heavyweight division is the best that Bellator has to offer.

They made some huge signings in the last year and they are ready to capitalize. Coker announced today that Bellator would be starting a Light Heavyweight Grand Prix that will start on April 9th.

Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

The Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix will kick off on April 9th. In the first quarter final matchup, Corey Anderson (14-5) will be taking on Bellator newcomer, Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (18-5-1).

Also on April 9th in the main event of the evening, Ryan Bader (27-6) will be taking on Lyoto Machida (26-10). Bader is the Bellator heavyweight champion and just lost his light heavyweight title last year to Vadim Nemkov (12-2).

Of course, the matchup everyone wanted to see takes place on April 16th. Yoel Romero (13-5) and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6) will battle it out. However, despite the hype behind this matchup, it will not serve as the main event on April 16th.

Instead, that honor will belong to the Bellator Light Heavyweight champion, Vadim Nemkov. Nemkov will be competing in the tournament and defending his title against Phil Davis (22-5, 1 NC). An absolutely stacked field and fight fans should be very excited about this Grand Prix.

Bellator: Fedor Emelianenko hospitalized due to COVID-19

Fedor Emelianenko

Current Bellator heavyweight and one of the greatest of all time, Fedor Emelianenko (39-6, 1 NC), has been hit by COVID-19. According to the former Pride heavyweight champion, he’s been in the hospital dealing with COVID.

He posted on his official Instagram this morning with the news. However, the Bellator heavyweight did assure fans that he is going into recovery stating, “I am going into recovery. I’m grateful to the doctors and medical staff for their care and hard work.”

Not the most comforting thing to read that one of the best ever has been in the hospital with COVID. However, at least fight fans can breathe a little easier hearing that Fedor is heading for recovery.

Fedor hasn’t fought since December of 2019 and spent 2020 waiting on the sidelines during the pandemic. Bellator was hesitant to book Fedor for another fight because it’s known that his next fight might be his last.

Bellator’s Plans for Fedor

At this time, it’s not known how long it will take Fedor to recover from his battle with COVID-19. As mentioned, the news just came out today that he had to go to the hospital due to the symptoms.

Bellator has been exploring options for Fedor’s last fight. Scott Coker has said that he wanted to do a show in Russia with fans for Fedor’s sendoff. However, the pandemic has really handcuffed them on their options.

Reports had suggested that Fedor was ready to get back into the Bellator cage and compete. At 44 years old, Fedor knows that he doesn’t have much time left in his fighting career. Once we get a better idea of his recovery timeline, we should get a better feel for Bellator’s plans.

My guess is that this really doesn’t impact them much. We know that Bellator wants to do a show with fans in Russia and that’s not going to happen anytime soon. That said, it should give Emelianenko plenty of time to recover before his return bout is booked in what might be his retirement fight.

Bellator’s AJ McKee has his eyes on top UFC contenders with two fights left on his contract

AJ McKee

In my opinion, there’s no one on the Bellator roster that has superstar potential quite like AJ McKee (17-0). From his style inside the cage to his confidence when he speaks, McKee has all the makings of a superstar.

Bellator‘s Scott Coker has raved about their homegrown star. McKee has said that he wants to become the Floyd Mayweather of MMA. So far, he’s ran through everyone who has stood in his way.

McKee made his professional debut with Bellator back in 2015. The 25 year old has fought his entire career under the Bellator banner and the promotion has done a very good job of bringing him along slowly.

They never rushed him seeing the potential that he has. McKee is on the verge of finally reaching the Bellator mountain top as he’s currently in their featherweight Grand Prix finals awaiting the winner of Patricio Pitbull and Emmanuel Sanchez.

While it’s going to be a massive year for McKee inside the Bellator cage, there is a budding storyline outside the cage. McKee recently revealed to MMA Junkie that he only has two fights left on his contract.

That being said, McKee is already looking across the pond at contenders in the UFC. McKee told MMA Junkie, “I’m looking across at the UFC and I’d love to have a field day with some of these guys…I’ve said I’m the Floyd Mayweather of MMA. I’m looking to make that Floyd Mayweather money.”

Will Bellator lose their star in 2021?

The face of Bellator over the last decade was Michael Chandler. Chandler left the promotion in 2020 to sign with the UFC. McKee has arguably the most star potential of anyone that the promotion has ever had and he might walk as well.

If McKee goes 2-0 this year, Bellator is going to have to do everything they can to retain McKee. McKee did allude to the fact that there might be some clauses in his contract that make it difficult to leave should he be the champion, but he didn’t elaborate.

For the sake of argument, if McKee is free to explore free agency after going 2-0 this year, Bellator could be in a lot of trouble. In reality, there is the possibility that McKee could earn more right away with Bellator than the UFC.

Michael Chandler told Brendan Schaub that the UFC wasn’t his highest offer on a per fight basis. However, his desire to compete against the best is why he ultimately signed with the UFC over returning to Bellator.

There is certainly the possibility that Bellator offers more up front in guaranteed money than the UFC for McKee. However, there is no comparison when it comes to the earning potential between the two.

There is no chance that McKee could get to a Conor McGregor level in Bellator. However, he can definitely do that in the UFC. If McKee is free to walk after his contract is up this year, the house favorite would have to be the biggest show in town, the UFC.

Bellator wants to do something special for Fedor’s final fight

Fedor Emelianenko

The career of one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all-time is winding down and Bellator wants to do something special for him. Fedor Emelianenko (39-6, 1 NC) is getting ready to call it a career after fighting for over 20 years.

The Russian heavyweight superstar has been in discussions with Bellator about what they could do to close out his career. By all accounts, Fedor wanted to fight in 2020, however, the promotion wanted to wait.

Scott Coker recently talked with MMA Junkie about Fedor’s final fight with Bellator. They don’t want him to just fight in front of the production staff in the bubble type environment that was created due to the pandemic.

Bellator is wanting to do something truly special for Fedor for his final fight. According to Coker, the promotion is envisioning a monumental sendoff in front of his home country with fans in the stands.

“I really want Fedor to finish his career in front of 30,000 people in Moscow, to be honest, Bellator MMA’s first fight in Russia. Do a fight in Moscow. Fedor is the greatest fighter of all-time. He’s now coming home to retire and put his gloves up and hang it up to retire,” Coker told MMA Junkie.

Who could Bellator pair him with?

If the COVID vaccine makes its way through Russia, there is a chance that Bellator could pull an event off with fans in 2021. However, I think having 30,000 fans might be a little bit of a stretch.

If Bellator is able to pull off a Russian event with fans, they have a couple of options for Fedor’s last fight. One option would be Josh Barnett (35-8). Barnett and Fedor were supposed to fight a number of times in their careers.

However, the fight never came together. At this stage in their careers, they aren’t going to be challenging for world titles. Barnett is a bigger name that Bellator could throw at Fedor for his final fight.

Another option would be top heavyweight contender, Cheick Kongo (30-11-2, 1 NC). Kongo is coming off of his first loss since 2015. He’s 45 years old and appears to be nearing the end of his career as well.

That could be another matchup that Bellator puts together. There is also the possibility that the promotion signs a one-off fighter to fight Fedor in his final fight in Russia. They have a few options to play with.

Either way, you can bet that Bellator is going to work on putting this together in 2021. Fedor has had an incredible career and it would be fitting to give him a proper sendoff in front of fans in Russia.