Scott Coker says Bellator champs best in world at … well, just about every division
DUBLIN – Bellator has another tournament coming up, and Scott Coker thinks the winner will be the best in the world.
The Bellator president never has been shy about saying he thinks many of the champions in his divisions are better than their counterparts in the UFC, ONE Championship, PFL or anywhere else. But Saturday after Bellator 291 in Dublin, he doubled down.
Coker thinks his upcoming lightweight grand prix, which includes new champion Usman Nurmagomedov, will produce the best 155-pound fighter in the world. That’s high praise, given the UFC’s lightweight champion is the highly touted Islam Makhachev, who just got put to the test by featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski.
Nurmagomedov has to defend his title straight away against ex-UFC and WEC Benson Henderson. Former champ Patricky Freire is in the mix against his brother’s fierce rival, A.J. McKee. Plus, there’s Tofiq Musayev vs. Alexander Shabliy and ex-champ Brent Primus vs. Mansour Barnaoui.
“Man, there’s a gauntlet of killers in here,” Coker said. “And if you look at the fight starting with March 10, Usman fighting Benson, Shabliy vs. Musayev, and then we go to A.J. McKee fighting ‘Pitbull’ and Barnaoui fighting Brent Primus. That is a tremendous lineup and I’m really looking forward to it.
“That’s going to be a great year for us. I think that we’ve been on a roll. We’ve been putting out some great fights all over the world, and we’re going to continue doing it. I think this is the best roster we’ve ever had.”
Not only does Coker think it’s the best roster since he took over the promotion after Bjorn Rebney’s departure, but he thinks a whole bunch of his champs stack up against anyone else.
“If you look at a 205-pound weight class, I think we have the best fighter in the world,” Coker said. “185, we have the best fighter in the world. 170, we have the best fighter in the world. We could fight anybody, any of those, and even the lighter weights, I think ’45, I think ’55. Then whoever wins this tournament, to me, would be the best lightweight in the world. I mean, that’s how I feel.
“And to have to be able to say that after five, six years of building this roster, it feels really good because these guys are exceptional athletes. And when I first came here, it wasn’t like that. This was not the Bellator it is today. It was a very small organization, small show, and it’s come a long way. And now we’re on a good roll.”
Bellator’s heavyweight champion is Ryan Bader. At light heavyweight, it’s Vadim Nemkov. Johnny Eblen holds the belt at middleweight, Yaroslav Amosov at welterweight after his title unification bout against Logan Storley at UFC 291, Nurmagomedov at lightweight, Patricio Freire at featherweight and Sergio Pettis at bantamweight.
On the women’s side, Cris Cyborg (featherweight) and Liz Carmouche (flyweight) hold the belts.
The lightweight tournament starts March 10 at Bellator 292 in San Jose, Calif.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 291.