Coker, Sakakibara: The good, the bad and the ugly
Scott Coker is one of the most respected promoters in the fight game. His Strikeforce bred some of the greatest fighters in the sport, and current UFC champions such as Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold and Fabricio Werdum all fought for Coker. Someone like Dana White, who is extremely vocal about people who question his methods, or try to go against UFC holds Coker in high regards.
Perhaps, it is a testament to how Scott has changed the fight game that no one has anything bad to say about the former Strikeforce head honcho.
When Bellator brought Coker in place of the former CEO and Chairman Bjorn Rebney, many saw this as a step in the right direction. Bellator was going nowhere under Bjorn, and who better to replace him than the man who, for the greater good of the sport, formed alliances with Dream and M – 1 Global for co – promotion and fighter exchanges?
The fans got to witness dream fights which, till that point, were just hypothetical. Scott Coker managed to build a system which not only brought some of the most talented fighters in the world under one roof but also led to the evolution of the sport.
Talking about promoters who changed the sport, Nobuyuki Sakakibara’s name will feature right at the top. The co-founder of Pride FC has already left a legacy which is hard to topple, and in the ten years Pride functioned, the promotion changed the face of MMA. Sakakibara and Pride captured the imagination of a nation, while bringing in some of the biggest names in the sport.
Much like Coker, Sakakibara had a vision – the ever evolving nature of MMA and the formats of the fights were given more emphasis, while the promotion almost always delivered when it came to the fights.
Similar to the positive feedback Coker’s appointment as Bellator’s President received, when Sakakibara announced his plans of starting a new promotion – Rizin FF, the MMA world reacted with glee. Both men who unearthed some of the greatest fighters the sport has ever seen were back in business, and while it meant that they were going to compete with the UFC sooner or later, the fighters and the fans believed that it would be what is needed for MMA today.
The fans no longer had to complain about UFC monopolizing the North American market, while Bellator started its steady expansion.
A testament to Coker’s vision has been the recent acquisition of Benson Henderson, as well as working out the differences between the promotion and “Rampage” Jackson’s team. Bellator MMA has a wealth of talent, and Coker has recently revealed that he would be bringing in more top talent, and would shell large amounts of Benjamins to ensure the growth of Bellator as a promotion.
Sakakibara too, with the NYE show of Rizin FF, guaranteed to bring fights which the MMA fans around the world wanted to see – including the return of “The Last Emperor”, and arguably the greatest fighter that ever lived, Fedor Emelianenko.