Bellator’s Coker defends “legend fights” like Shamrock-Gracie III: “Why not? We have something for everybody”

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief


“At first I didn’t get it. I was asking [promoter] Kazuyoshi Ishii, ‘Why are you doing Bob Sapp against Akebono? And why are you trying to get Mike Tyson to fight Bob Sapp? And why do you have other sumo wrestlers fight?’ I’ll never forget this – he said, ‘You know, Scott, when Ernesto Hoost fights Peter Aerts or the Pride fighters face each other, the hard-core fans tune in. But I need the grandmothers and the grandfathers and the uncles and the aunts, and people that cross over to mainstream America and the water-cooler talk of the offices.’ That’s really where it hit me. He’s right. It’s really that crossover audience to get you to the massive numbers you need to be successful. It’s really simple if you think about it – you just need to have great ratings and put butts in seats. That’s really how you are measured in this business… [Critics] don’t understand that you can do it all. I call them fun fights and legend fights. You can have the hard-core fights. We are going to put something on air for every segment of our audience, and to me, it’s like why not? We have something for everybody.”

-Bellator MMA President Scott Coker talks to about his mindset on booking fights like Friday’s Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie main event at Bellator 149.

Penick’s Analysis: The problem with “something for everybody” in events like this is that while they may grab some interest that wasn’t there before, they haven’t kept anyone around for the rest of their product. Worse still, fights like Shamrock-Gracie III and Kimbo Slice-DaDa 5000 can work to dissuade a segment of the fanbase from watching at all. Coker calls them “fun” fights or “legend” fights, but to whom? Is it really going to be all that “fun” to see two fighters with a combined age over 100 fight in 2016? Is the clustermess that is the Slice-DaDa street fighter garbage going to make the Bellator fanbase want to keep tuning in to these events? It’s risky. It’s worked to bring eyes to Spike to an extent, but where do they go from here? And what happens when this type of thing fails to be sustainable in the long run while their other, more relevant, and in 2016 more talented fighters get short shrift? The “why not?” attitude may work in the short term, but at some point it’s only going to bring diminishing returns on freak show fights.

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