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Scott Coker president Bellator MMA: “Goal to get all 30 events in this year- a very busy six months”

Leading mixed martial arts organisation Bellator MMA, owned by
CBS/Viacom are planning to do six events in six weeks behind closed
doors at the media giants Los Angeles headquarters from mid-July to
catch up with the lost events as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
One of those events was destined for Wembley Arena on May 16.
Scott Coker, president of Bellator MMA, told me: “My goal is to get all our scheduled 30
events in by the end of the year. I will say this, we have a very
ambitious plan but I want to make this happen. We have international
and domestic deals we need to fulfil. The difference is for people
coming out of this shelter-in-place, I think the consumer will have a
hard time coming back right away. It will take time for people to
develop confidence to go back to the movies, basketball games, boxing
events and combat events. We decided in July, August and September and
maybe even October we’ll be on a sound stage in LA or at the Paramount
Lot in LA. We’re talking to both of them right now and we’re looking
at all the different options around the world. What I mean is no
audience, a sound stage, an isolated event where we can control the
environment. We’ll make it a ‘made for TV’ show only. We’ll get the
product out to our International broadcasters. Honestly I think if
they opened up the gates tomorrow and said everyone can do what they
like, I don’t think they would. I think there would be a certain
amount of hesitancy and consumer fear of going back to big gatherings.
It’ll be different for a while. I do believe we will get back to some
sort of normality in time, but it’ll take time. Hopefully we’ll get
there sooner than later.”
“Since the merger with Viacom and CBS, Showtime (boxing) is part of
the family now. Bellator will probably go on Friday night and showtime
will go on Saturday night. The fight card we had in May at Wembley, we
might bring those fighters to the US. I’m hoping the travel ban will
be lifted by then. We’ll do a one o’clock show for the European fights
live on Channel 5 and then we’ll a night time show for Paramount with
a different set of fighters. It’ll be live in the UK but filmed in a
fight set location, wherever that may be.”
Travel bans will also have an impact. “If the travel ban is not lifted
then I can’t get fighters like Patricio Pitbull (Brazil) and Daniel
Weichel (Germany) here. That’s something we might have to work out. I
told my guys yesterday that there might be a situation where these
guys can’t travel. So I need a contingency plan of USA fighters
against USA fighters. We might not be able to get the featherweight
quarter-finalists from our tournament here, so that might have to be
pushed back.”
That includes Pedro Carvalo, a Portuguese fighter who trains in Dublin
with Conor McGregor under coach John Kavanagh.
“We might just have to do super fights from North America,” explained
Coker. “There’s a lot of unknowns right now including going to the UK.
We don’t know what’s going on over there. If we did go there would we
go into quarantine? Certain states in the US do that, like Hawaii.
Certain states are opening up. Texas is opening up, Florida and
Georgia have opened up. It’s affected the world economy and it’s not
something I’d ever see in my lifetime. But we’ll just have to do it.”
“The testing protocols will be worked
out. I feel the athletic commissions will want to have its own
protocol and then Viacom as a company will have its own protocol,”
explained Coker. “We’re talking to
several different labs about what kind of tests we can do. We’re looking for
an infectious disease doctor or nurse to travel with us. We’re putting
together a team of people who can make this safe for us, the people
who are working with us, the TV guys – everybody. There’s more than
just the fighters and cornermen to think about.”
Is Coker’s vision that they MUST come back by mid-July? “Have to?
Absolutely not. If we can come back in July, and I believe we can,
we’re waiting for the numbers so the government can allow us to do
events. Fighters will be ready when the time is right. Our staff
is ready now. We must fighters time when we get the
green light. Protocol can be there in the next 2 months. Do we have
to come back in July? No, but it’s our wish to do it and I believe we
can do.”
He added: “I’d like to go back and rewind it to March 13 where we
called off our event at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut in the
afternoon and start with those fights, if I can. And then
go card by card, but I can’t get that commitment yet. There’s a travel
ban for different countries. We can’t get people here. I think that’s
why the UFC are talking about an island. If we can get them in then we
might do the European shows here. At this
point everything is up for interpretation and we just need a fluid
feeling moving forward. There are a lot of stumbling blocks that could
come up and it’s not that we don’t think we can overcome them, but we
have to roll with the punches right now.”


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