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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Bellator is ready to kick off its 2021 schedule, and promotion president Scott Coker is thrilled with what the future holds.
On Thursday, Coker spoke with MMA Junkie on a host of topics including “Pitbull” vs. Straus 2, the promotion’s deal with Showtime, the implementation of Bellator rankings, hot free agents, the welterweight division, ongoing visa issues, fighter pay, the arrest of former Bellator featherweight champion Daniel Straus, Jon Jones vs. the UFC, and more.
Bellator 255 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card airs on Showtime, with the entire card also available to stream for free on MMA Junkie.
Check out MMA Junkie’s Q&A with Scott Coker before Bellator 255 by scrolling through the items below:
Excitement in the air for 'Pitbull' vs. Sanchez 2?
"When I feel the electricity at the weigh-ins and talking to my guys and all the staff and everything, it's going to be a great moment. Any time you have a win or go home situation, which is really what this is, the winner gets to move forward and fight A.J. McKee, hopefully in several months. The loser has to go home and the winner gets to fight for $1 million. This is a big fight for both of them. "Last time they fought, it was one of my favorite fights of all time. It was a war. To me, it was, in older boxing terms, the Leonard-Duran first fight. They brought it and it was a war. I think it's the last time 'Pitbull' had a split decision. People don't recall, but I remember talking to the coaches. After the fight in Israel, Tel Aviv, a couple years back, 'Pitbull' had to go to the hospital. He was there for three days. He couldn't leave until he healed up and they released him. It was a war and I'm telling you it's going to be the same thing this time."
Patricio 'Pitbull' finally getting his due?
"Everybody that knows the business, knows who he is and what he's done, what he's accomplished. To see him get that notoriety, not from the hardcore fans, but the fringe fans, and just average fans of sports, I think he deserves it. I think a lot of it is going to be how he performs tomorrow night, too. Because you can have a great legacy. I mean, this is a guy who's done it all. "He's fought everybody we've ever asked him to fight. He's never had a boring fight in his life that I've ever seen. He always brings it. He reminds me of the Diaz brothers in a way. He's got that little chip on his shoulder. He'll fight in a phone booth if he has to. He's not afraid of anybody. That's why they call him 'Pitbull.' It's like he's got this little attitude about him."
The benefits of being on Showtime?
"It's a company and a network that really knows how to promote fights. Look what they did with Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, and look what they did with Strikeforce. They built the last 10 years' generation of fighters, if you think about it, right? They were very instrumental in Strikeforce. Sure, we brought the fighters, but they got those fighters the notoriety they deserved. I'm talking about guys who had no fights coming into MMA. The Daniel Cormiers of the world. The T-Woods. They are extremely good storytellers (with) great, great, great production value. It's a premium network and everyone here already knows MMA."
Happy with launch of Bellator rankings?
"There's always going to be a discrepancy of this person being ranked ahead of this person. But what I was really excited about was actually seeing it on paper. What I'm looking forward to is when these fighters that haven't fought yet fight and we can get them into the rankings. Like, the Yoel Romeros. Like, the 'Rumble' Johnsons, the people who had just come on board in the light heavyweight tournament. Once we get that going, to see those guys integrated into the rankings, I'm really looking forward to the rankings at the end of May, after that first round is complete."
What's the deal with 'MVP?
"We offered him (Neiman Gracie) a couple (of) months ago. London is still shut down. That's the issue. He felt he didn't have enough time to train. There's nobody to roll with and he didn't feel comfortable taking a fight at this level without the proper training. We're just waiting for him. When he's ready, we'll put him right in there. "There is an issue with getting some of the fighters over here from the U.K., but Michael has already been cleared to come in. He'll be fine. When he's ready, we'll be ready."
"I didn't know (his contract expired). I'm sure UFC has matching negotiating rights, things like that. So I don't want to comment. But T-Wood is a great friend. He's been a good ambassador for the sport. He's had so many great matchups here in Strikeforce before and in the UFC. I'm not even sure if he wants to fight (any more). Honestly, I haven't talked to him about it."
"I think my guys are talking to her, but I'll have to confirm that."
Why did two light heavyweight grand prix bouts shift?
"Part of this business has been waiting for these visas to get approved. It took a long time for Corey Anderson's opponent (Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov) to get approved. We were almost going to have to switch opponents at some point because we're close to moving forward, like, 'Who am I fighting?' Anyway, that was one of the issues that pushed everything back, so we just said if you guys want to have more time to train and fight in May, we'll do a double-header in May with (Juan) Archuleta and (Sergio) Pettis and 'Rumble' (Anthony Johnson) and Yoel Romero. That's a pay-per-view fight card in my opinion."
Daniel Straus update?
"We're monitoring the news. We're monitoring the legal process. If he's found guilty, then he'll be removed from the roster right away. We're going to let the legal process take its course."
Thoughts on Jon Jones vs. the UFC in a saga regarding fighter pay?
"It's an interesting topic because we deal with it as well. Sometimes fighters aren't happy and they want to renegotiate their deal. But it's no different than any other sport (with) fighters holding out, athletes and football players holding out, boxers holding out. This happens. Even in the movie business, right? The talent and the production are always going to have beef because the athlete feels like they deserve more. I don't know his particular situation. I'm just talking in general terms. That's not an uncommon theme in sports. To me, it happens everywhere. It's really between Jon and the UFC because he's not a Bellator fighter." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK67B2GfPM0&t=718s