Bellator CEO Scott Coker reflected on the growth of women’s fighting, and visits to Hawaii and Canada following Bellator 201 in Temecula on Friday.
Two big story lines emerged from Bellator 201 in Temecula, CA on Friday. One was the continued emergence of female fighters, given that two of four main card bouts at the Pechanga Resort and Casino featured the women’s flyweight division. The other was whether Bellator might head to in the coming months: Hawaii, or perhaps Canada.
Champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Hawaiian-born, has been vocal about fighting in the island state. Canada, meanwhile, has been discussed for over a year. Bellator sports two Canadian champions between Rory MacDonald and Julia Budd. Valerie Letourneau, the likely next challenger for flyweight gold, also hails from the Great White North.
Bellator CEO Scott Coker covered the possibility of heading to each, and the growth of women’s MMA, following Bellator 201.
“I think the women really delivered,” he said of the night’s action, then reflected on the growth of women’s fighting since 2006. Back then, the California State Commission wouldn’t permit female fights period, he recalled. “They said no female fights are allowed, and we fought hard,” Coker recounted. “Six months later, Elaina Maxwell fought Gina Carano. That was only three minute rounds. They wouldn’t let five minute rounds happen, and they wouldn’t let five rounds go on. Then it was another year and a half.”
“So almost a two year process to get to the point where the females could fight like the men,” Coker continued. “I think that if you see the talent level of the females fighting today, it’s unbelievable. And I think you saw some really great talent today.”
One of those talented ladies, 125lb champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, is pushing hard for Bellator to go to her native Hawaii. Coker joked that he was leaving for a “site survey” immediately, but would need a few months.
On a more serious note, admitted that the time frame was challenging in terms of broadcasting a Hawaiian event. “Because now you’re on a Friday, and now you have to promote it at 3 o’clock in the afternoon? That makes it tough,” Coker said. “But if there’s a way to do it, we will find that way to do it.”
Canada remains on the radar as well, which would make the likes of Letourneau, MacDonald, and Budd smile. “One of our goals is to take Rory in a big fight there sometime. It looks like it’s going to be 2019. The reason is just that the venues there are so packed, they’re so booked it’s hard to get a date.” Coker noted that Bellator is competing with professional hockey, basketball, and various concerts when it comes to booking a Canadian date, which would still have to line up with Bellator’s schedule.
Were it not for that? Well, Rory MacDonald, said Coker, “might be fighting Gegard up there.”