Scott Coker (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)Bellator Shake-Up: What MMA Fans Can Expect From Scott Coker Running the Show Kyle Symes June 19, 2014 Spotlight Out with the old, in with the new. That’s the phrase that pays for Bellator MMA these days. Bellator, for the first time since, well, ever, lit up the social media world when news broke that its founder and CEO, Bjorn Rebney, was stepping away from the promotion he helped create. It was a clear power move by Viacom, the media company that owns a majority stake in the promotion. As the sense of shock from Rebney stepping away began to pass, the talk shifted to speculation regarding his replacement. Initial rumors pointed to Scott Coker. It didn’t take long for those rumors to be validated—by the end of the day, Coker was moving into Rebney’s office. Coker is the man who was credited for bringing Strikeforce out of the depths of the regional promotion landscape and shaping it into a major player in the MMA world. At a time when Strikeforce and Bellator were competing for the right to be called No. 2 behind the UFC, Coker did an excellent job of making it clear that Strikeforce was the better option. Despite Strikeforce closing its doors after it was purchased by UFC parent company Zuffa, none of that falls on the shoulders of Coker. Now, Coker gets to play ball with an all-star squad behind him. Strikeforce aired on Showtime, which limited the number of viewers the promotion could pull in. That won’t be a problem for Coker with Bellator, which airs on Spike TV, a network that’s virtually standard across all major forms of cable. Showtime was also getting out of the MMA business near the end of Strikeforce’s run. Viacom appears to be sold on the idea of MMA, therefore providing Coker and company with powerful backing behind the scenes. The media call made it a point to not focus on the exit of former Bellator employees, but rather on the future of the promotion. There were a lot of non-answers or half answers during the call, but one thing seems clear: Bellator is poised to undergo some major renovations in the future. What can MMA fans expect from Coker and Bellator in the post-Rebney era? For one, it seems the tournament format is done serving as the major focal point of Bellator programming. Fans have been on the fence about the tournament format, with some claiming it helps separate Bellator from other promotions and others quick to point out the problems that come with running a tournament. Viacom made it clear that it is not entirely scrapping the tournaments, but they won’t be the same. If anything, it sounds like it could be used to build up prospects, or it could be utilized more sparingly, when the timing is perfect, like when Coker put together the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. It also appears that Bellator is done with the “seasonal format.” During the Rebney era, Bellator would take off a few months here and there. With Coker at the helm, it looks like Bellator is going to run on a year-round format, similar to what fans are accustomed to with the UFC. This is a great move for fans, as it was often hard to keep track of guys who were inactive and not involved with a tournament. This move will also help keep fighters busy, a common complaint surrounding the promotion until this point. Coker did imply that Bellator would be looking to increase its talent pool, but he didn’t specify if his budget would be larger than what Rebney had to work with. The promotion also did comment on whether the Bellator contracts would be overhauled following heavy criticism of some of the terms Bellator attached to its fighter deals. Bellator has a lot of negative press to overcome in terms of getting fighters to commit to sign on the dotted line and compete under the Bellator banner. Luckily for Viacom, it secured the services of the right guy to get the job done. Coker’s reputation in the MMA world is overwhelmingly positive, and fighters should have a new reason to consider Bellator as a top destination. In regards to the changes coming to Bellator, fans are either going to be excited or depressed, depending on their view of Bellator’s tournaments. If you’re a fan who thought the Bellator tourneys were something that made the promotion unique and you enjoyed watching the drama unfold, then the move to a more regular format isn’t going to sit well with you. However, if you’re on board the train of change, these moves give reason to be optimistic about the future of Bellator. The changes should benefit the fighters, which is something that should make MMA fans happy. And, given the history Coker has of running a promotion, odds are fans are in for some good times while watching Bellator events. The bottom line is that Viacom is running the show. That’s not to say Coker won’t have a voice in future decisions, but with the media giant owning a majority stake in the company, it can do virtually as it pleases. Coker should already know it for himself, but hopefully he expresses to the Viacom heads that Bellator can’t compete with the UFC. If the Viacom brass understands this and moves forward with trying to create a nice niche at second place, then the promotion should thrive.