“Spike TV is an entertainment property. We’re going to continue to entertain.”
-Scott Coker at Bellator 160’s post-fight press conference.
Those comments from Scott Coker ended an eventful week for MMA’s red-headed step-child. Signing free agent Rory MacDonald days before a card featuring Ben Henderson displayed Bellator’s willingness to bring top-tier talent to their organization, which is never a bad thing. I’m just not sure how much it matters.
For the record, I’m a Scott Coker guy. How can I not be? I’m from the Bay Area, had Strikeforce in my backyard, and love good fights. I also appreciate originality, which Coker has in spades, and I didn’t view Strikeforce as a competitor to the UFC as much as a different vision of what MMA could be.
But Bellator is Bjorn Rebney’s vision combined with Spike’s vision combined with Viacom’s vision, more like mixed martial media than mixed martial arts. This is a much different situation for Scott, and, as evidenced by his quote, it appears as though his priorities have changed accordingly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. As a fan and someone who enjoys alternatives to the UFC, Bellator really has me scratching my head lately. From DaDa to kickboxing, I get the sense they’re just throwing stuff at the wall, seeing what sticks.
In no way will I pretend that Scott has an easy job trying to keep everyone happy, and I have no clue what’s going on behind the scenes. But I do know a few things that can help his fans who want to him succeed.
We need some consistency in the scheduling. Fridays at 9 was Bellator time for years, and, even though it was overkill, it was reliable. Now we go weeks between cards, then have fights back to back weeks, but with different start times. Throw in the Saturday “tent-poles,” and we’re all messed up.
Next, the West Coast tape-delay needs to be addressed. The reason sports are such a valuable entertainment commodity is because they air live, which means advertisements are more likely to be seen. It also means you can interact on social media to enhance the experience, connect with other fans, and become more engaged in the product. Right now, a large portion of the country is deprived of this, instead getting spoilers on their Twitter feeds. When I read about Benson Henderson’s uneventful first round combined with Pitbull’s injury during last week’s main event, I passed on the card to stare aimlessly into space.
I don’t feel good about this last suggestion, because I like Jimmy Smith, but it’s time to change up the announce team. The new guy is terrible, and while Smith provides enthusiasm and some good insights, there’s nothing especially special about him. Bring back the three-person booth, and have Iron Mike pop in more often. That was Bellator’s highlight of the year.
I didn’t mention the first thing on my wish-list, because I’m guessing the ship has sailed, but what I think would alter the perception of Bellator more than anything would be a name change. “Bellator” is awful. Bootsy. Whack. The whole “warrior” ethos is played out, people fighting in a cage, we get it. I know Viacom has put a ton of dough behind the brand, which is a shame, because for many of us it will always be associated with second-tier MMA. As much as I want Scott Coker to change this, it doesn’t seem likely.