Bellator continues growth in Europe as it announces several new match-ups in a parade of champions
An array of champions, challengers, and a phalanx of rising stars converged on Times Square, New York City for the Bellator Spring and Summer 2020 Showcase at the Viacom/CBS headquarters in Manhattan. There were major fights announced, rivalries were renewed which will run for the next six months and beyond, and in between the Gentlemen Fighters, the scrappers relished some pre-fight trash talking.
It just about exemplified what Bellator president Scott Coker was there to underline about the fight league. That after five years at the helm, the brief was being fulfilled: powerful roster, great match-ups, expansion globally, and growth from the top down, and the bottom up. But the bottom line as ever with Coker ? It is about the ‘fighters first’.
The news conference featured a dozen fighters who are set to compete on upcoming Bellator cards this spring and summer.
Included were featherweight and lightweight champion Patricio Freire and Pedro Carvalho, who will fight for Freire’s featherweight title on Friday night at Bellator 241 at Mohegan Sun, alongside the last featherweight grand prix pairing of Emmanuel Sanchez and Daniel Weichel, who are the Bellator 241 co-feature. Also at the conference, heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader and Vadim Nemkov, who will headline Bellator 242 for Bader’s light heavyweight title.
Then, welterweight champion Douglas Lima and Gegard Mousasi, who will contest the vacant middleweight title at Bellator 242. Both of those contests will be in San Jose on May 9. The following week, James Gallagher and Cal Ellenor, will headline Bellator Europe 8 in London on May 16, while also on the packed stage were Darrion Caldwell and A.J. McKee, who are already through to the semi-finals of the featherweight tournament, with the venue of their encounter yet to be set.
“Our tournaments have been great business, from Paramount to DAZN, and are something we are very proud of,” explained Coker. “Next year we will do another tournament on DAZN,” he added, thanking Fedor Emelianenko, the great Russian heavyweight still active on the Bellator roster, and Irishman John Kavanagh, coach to Conor McGregor, Gallagher and Carvalho, for being in attendance. Kavanagh has been instrumental in the growth of MMA in Europe, and many of his SBG fighters have already competed on the Bellator Europe cards.
“Five years ago, we had the task to sign the best fighters in the world. We had Lima, the Pitbull brothers…we started signing fighters from the top down and from the bottom up. You see up here a combination of some of the best fighters in the world, and some of the best of the young stars,” explained Coker.
“It is the same team that in 2007/2008 helped build Strikeforce, and we now have a fight roster and a product we are very proud of. Our momentum only continues. At the end of the day its all about the fighters. Obviously, VIACOM/CBS have officially merged and I wanted to thank CEO Bob Bakish who is a big supporter of Bellator and what we are doing. We are excited about the future and where we are headed,” added Coker, who insisted that the Bellator European growth will continue, that its has “the best distribution deal in Europe” with Channel 5 and Sky Sports, and that there will be further expansion in Latin America and Asia in the coming years.
The news conference was given extra spice with the trash talking between Irishmen Gallagher and Queally, and the Brazilian Pitbull brothers Patricio and Patricky, who were held apart by security officers. All in all, Bellator’s parade of champions and contenders press conference showed that the roster has both spice, and class, from top to bottom. And if Lima can claim the vacant middleweight belt against Mousasi on May 9, Bellator could have three two-weight world champions.