Dave Mandel/Sherdog)Bellator MMA: Quietly Becoming a Rival to the UFC RJ Gardner August 22, 2015 Bellator, Bellator Events, Promotions, Spotlight It has been just a little over a year now since Scott Coker was announced as the new President of Bellator MMA, and in that short amount of time, Coker has turned the organization around. Originally founded by Bjorn Rebney, Bellator was a niche organization focusing on seasonal tournaments. While the tournaments were fun and entertaining, it inhibited the organization’s ability to consistently put on title fights. Coker’s first order of business as new President, scrap the tournament format and focus on traditional matchmaking. The move away from tournaments allowed Bellator to do two things; first, it afforded them the ability to give the fans the matchups they wanted to see most. Second, it allowed them to move away from weekly shows and focus on building better events on a monthly basis. After making those important changes and laying the ground work to build a successful MMA organization Coker – a long time promoter in combat sports – turned his attention to the most important piece of the puzzle; building up his stable of fighters. Rebney did a adequate job of attracting talented up and comers to the organization while he was at the helm, but he could never pick up any significant free agents. Coker on the other hand has done a masterful job of attracting name fighters to the Bellator cage. The fighters may not be the best of the best and some may be past their prime,s but they have name value to the casual MMA fan. That’s all it takes to get viewers to tune in to their events. If you can tap into the casual fan base with a main event featuring a couple of recognizable fighters then bolster the card with fights featuring your unknown talent, then you can build new stars in the sport. While attracting name fighters is an important piece of building a strong roster, you also have to cultivate your own in house talent. While other organizations have chosen the route of poaching fighters from organizations like the RFA and Titan FC, Coker and his team have really focused on signing prospects with high level potential and zero fighting experience. This is a risky play considering you never know if a prospect is going to pan out or not, but Coker and his team have done a great job of focusing on prospects with high level wrestling backgrounds. From Aaron Pico to Ed Ruth to their most recent signing of Tyrell Fortune, Coker is hitching his wagon to elite level talents early in their development. Bellator still has a long way to go before they can truly compete with the UFC head-to-head, but Coker is doing all of the right things to set the organization up for continues success. By aggressively going after free agents and identifying and developing prospects Bellator is proving that they are in this for the long haul and that they fully intend on challenging the UFC somewhere down the road. Mark Atkins Someone has to stop Dana White from becoming the Hitler of MMA. :) RODNEY P I really like what Bellator has done with Bobby Lashley. Bellator did not sign him and rush him into a main event or championship fight. Instead, Bellator has done a nice progressive slow build with Bobby Lashley and it is working. And in the process, it helps Bobby Lashley become a more complete MMA fighter.