Bellator President Scott Coker had stern criticism for the UFC today in the wake of a brawl at UFC 229.
“To me, it’s a black eye for the industry,” Coker said today during a press conference for Bellator 207 and Bellator 208. “It’s up to all of us to pick it up and make sure something like that never happens again.
“But that was embarrassing moment for the sport, as far as I’m concerned.”
Not all share Coker’s disapproval. Former PRIDE heavyweight champ Fedor Emelianenko (37-5 MMA, 1-1 BMMA), who faces Chael Sonnen (30-15-1 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) in the headliner of Bellator 208, demurred on a reaction to his Russian countryman Khabib Nurmagomedov, who started the brawl after submitting Conor McGregor to defend the UFC lightweight title.
“I cannot give you any comments, because I didn’t watch this fight,” Emelianenko said. “During my camp, I don’t watch any fights. I have heard about the brawl. But at the moment, I’m not going into details.”
Coker knows from experience what can happen when fighters lose control in the cage. Eight years ago, he was in charge when Jason “Mayhem” Miller touched off a brawl at “Strikeforce: Nashville.” The incident was broadcast live on CBS and resulted in multiple suspensions for the fighters involved. Strikeforce never again aired on the Tiffany Network.
At the time, UFC President Dana White appeared to revel in Coker’s misfortune, tweeting a smiley face after the chaos erupted.
Today, Coker declined to go tit-for-tat with White, who later became one of his bosses when he sold the Strikeforce promotion to UFC in 2011.
“The smiley face, it’s irrelevant, honestly,” Coker said. “We’re moving forward doing our own thing. But something like that, it’s not good for the sport. I’m glad we’re here to continue business as usual and get back to how it should be run.”
“Business as usual” was White’s expression for Strikeforce’s future after its acquisition, though it wasn’t long before the promotion suffered from a critical lack of resources. Less than two years after the buyout, Zuffa shut it down to focus on its primary business. Coker, meanwhile, took an extended break from the MMA because he signed a non-compete with the industry-leader.
When that agreement expired, Coker jumped back into the business, replacing the unpopular Bellator founder Bjorn Rebney as the face of the No. 2 MMA promotion. Since then, he’s revitalized the event by signing a bevy of top-tier fighters who’ve generated strong ratings for broadcast partner Spike (later rebranded as Paramount).
This weekend at Bellator 207 and Bellator 208, the semifinals of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix will commence. The tournament harkens back to Strikeforce’s heyday and marks one of the strongest collections of talent outside the UFC.
Bellator hasn’t been able to keep its cage entirely free of conflict; Conor McGregor nearly touched off his own brawl this past November after he jumped into the cage at Bellator 187. But Coker said he’s learned his lesson about keeping the peace after fights.
“If you look at our cage now, it’s very thin in there,” he said. “I would say it was an explosive environment, and it got explosive (at UFC 229). And that’s not the way it should be.”
- Daily Debate results: Who do you think will advance to the Bellator heavyweight grand prix final?
- Video: Watch today's Bellator 208 pre-fight press conference on MMAjunkie at noon ET
- Bellator 208 pre-event facts: Cheick Kongo ties record for most Bellator/UFC fights
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Bellator President Scott Coker: UFC 229 brawl 'a black eye for the sport'