Bellator MMA could soon be taking a page out of the UFC’s books when it comes to how they handle their main events.
Back in 2011, the UFC made the decision that all headlining bouts would go for five rounds, a duration that had previously been reserved for championship fights. It’s a change that Bellator has yet to adopt, but company president Scott Coker said that his promotion may just head in that direction in the near future.
“It’s something that we’ve debated internally, and like I said at the press conferences, once you do it you can’t go back,” Coker said during an appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday. “There’s been some thought on both sides, but right now we are going to continue with the three-round main events and five-round title fights. But it’s still being debated internally and I think it will just be a matter of when it happens, but I think eventually we’ll head in that direction.”
Talk of a possible move to five-round main events was raised again following a three-round bout between Gegard Mousasi and Alexander Shlemenko that closed out Bellator 185. Mousasi won a close unanimous decision over Shlemenko, a verdict that could have been different with two more frames given that Shlemenko came on strong in round three and that Mousasi was hindered by a broken orbital.
Coker sees the appeal of longer headliners, but also thinks that having only 15 minutes to work can entice fighters to leave it all in the cage.
“I’m not opposed to three rounds to be honest, because it’s something that when you go in there and you know it’s three rounds, you’re going to fight your ass off for three rounds and go at it,” Coker said. “You can’t pace yourself, it’s going to be a much quicker paced fight than a five-round fight.
“But I have people debating me here and it makes a lot of sense because if this fight was a five-round fight, clearly I think it would have gone Shlemenko’s way. I’m kind of in the middle here. We’ll see what happens. It’s being debated, that’s for sure.”
On the same day that Mousasi made his debut against Shlemenko, another Bellator star was embarking on a new venture of his own. Undefeated welterweight Michael “Venom” Page competed in his first pro boxing bout at a show in London, England on Oct. 20, defeating Jonathan Castano by third-round TKO.
Showing that he’s willing to embrace change, Coker signed off on Page’s boxing match with little hesitation.
“I said look, as long it doesn’t interfere with his fight schedule with us, then we’re fine with it,” Coker said. “So they put this fight together. Michael really wanted to do it, we talked about it. I said look, if this is important for you then go ahead and do it. Go do it, go try boxing and see how it works out for you and if you enjoy it or don’t enjoy it, but at the end of the day he’s continuing to train.
“Boxing is something that if he gets better, it’s going to be better for him when he fights in the cage for us. He’s going to up his stock over there in the UK and keep building his brand there and we have no problem with it.”
It helps that Coker is also building a relationship with the boxing community. While heavily-promoted pugilist Heather Hardy was soundly defeated at Bellator 185 by Kristina Williams, her promoter Lou DiBella told Coker that he has other female boxers who might be interested in trying their hand at MMA in the Bellator cage.
As for where “MVP” stands with Bellator, Coker said that he’s not giving up on pairing him up with hated rival Paul Daley. When informed that Page is only willing to fight Daley if they both agree to forfeit their fight purse to whoever wins the bout, Coker was interested in the stipulation.
“At the end of the day, that fight should happen, and if ‘winner take all’ is what he’s proposing, maybe that’s what we propose to Paul and say, ‘Hey, here’s a winner take all scenario, let’s do it, let’s get it on,’” said Coker. “If they want to put it on the line, we’re going to pay somebody, we’ll just pay the winner.”