Bellator cools rage in the cage in wake of coronavirus
Bellator President Scott Coker spent time during the coronavirus pandemic like so many others, binging on Netflix and catching up on “Tiger King.”
“That’s a crazy show,” Coker said.
Coker would love for mixed martial arts fans to catch up on his style of cage fighting in the promotion he runs through Bellator’s app or its YouTube channel. But live fights, right now in this climate?
Bellator has postponed all fights until the Bellator 242 card on May 9 that features Ryan Bader defending the light heavyweight championship against Vadim Nemkov in San Jose, California. Even that event could be in jeopardy after President Donald Trump extended federal guidelines recommending people stay home for another 30 days, until the end of April, to prevent the spread of the virus. Bellator’s next big card could go down for the count.
“I feel like the right thing to do is wait,” Coker said. “When the state of California says, ‘You’re good to go,’ when we get a call from (the California State Athletic Commission) that says you’re good to go, then we’ll go. I think we’re waiting for the green light from the government.”
Coker had considered running its March 16 card with a Patricio “Pitbull” Freire — Pedro Carvalho Bellator 241 main event at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut without fans until he decided to postpone the card. It has not yet been rescheduled.
“We’ll make up these fights,” Coker said. “If we miss any other fights while we’re waiting, we’ll make them up.”
With 241 in doubt, Bellator went ahead and paid all fighters, officials, judges, crew and any essential personnel connected to the card.
“It was quite expensive, well into the seven figures,” Coker said. “Revenue you can make up, and that’s what we’re going to do. I think there will be an impact, even if we make up these events.”
Bellator, owned by Viacom, also has a card scheduled for May 16 in London.
“I feel like there’s a possibility everything will be fine by the end of April,” Coker said. “If it’s not, then we’ll have to push the fights back. That’s a tough call. We’ll have to let them know in the next couple of weeks, here’s our backup plan.”
UFC has since held a card Brazil and company president Dana White has been adamant the company will still hold its next pay-per-view event in an undetermined locale on April 18. The main event fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson was originally scheduled for Brooklyn. UFC had hoped to move two events, scheduled for March 28 and April 11, to its UFC Apex training complex in Las Vegas, where they would have been held without fans. They failed to go off as scheduled.
“I”m not one to judge their business, but I just hope they’re taking precautions and all the proper steps because, to me, it’s always been about the health and safety and well being of the athletes and the staff,” Coker said. “One of the decisions we made when we pulled the plug was the, ‘What if?’ What if we continue and two or three of these fighters ended up with the coronavirus on our watch? It would become very real, very quickly.”