Bellator president Scott Coker on decision to continue payments: 'We felt it was the right thing to do'

Friday 20 March 2020 19:58, UK

Scott Coker
Image: Coker ensured the event staff would still get paid

Bellator president Scott Coker has described paying fighters on last week's cancelled card as 'the right thing to do'.

The Bellator MMA promotion came in for widespread praise in the aftermath of the cancellation of their card last week.

The promotion were forced into an 11th-hour decision to cancel Bellator 241 in light of the coronavirus pandemic, after originally planning to hold it behind closed doors. Nonetheless, they decided to proceed with payments to all stakeholders in the event.

"It was all systems go," Bellator president Scott Coker told Sky Sports. "24 hours before, we decided to pull the plug. It was just one thing after the other that just led to the decision.

"I talked to the staff and said 'if you guys are uncomfortable, you guys should just go home and be with your families'. It's a very interesting time. There's no precedent on how to handle something like this. It's spreading so fast.

"So we decided to pull the plug, and we felt it was the right thing to do at that time.

"The message [to fighters] was, 'look guys, this is a situation we can't control. It just came to a point where we don't feel comfortable hosting it, for you guys as well'.

More on this story

"The gesture of us extending their pay, compensation for all the staff, all the cutmen, all the physicians, all the doctors, all the ringside officials, all the judges, referees, we've got to take care of them because we're aware. Some of these fighters might not have fights for three or four months. This is probably their last payday for three or four months, until hopefully this will blow over sometime soon, but we felt that this was the right thing to do, that these guys go home with their pay to take care of their families."

Bellator
Image: All Bellator events have been put on hold

So, is holding cards behind closed doors still an option in the coming weeks and months?

"We're going to wait to see what the government comes out with, and how they want to handle it," he continued.

"Fighters, they're fighting at such close proximity. This is not a sport like golf, where you can stand six feet away from somebody and have that social distancing. It can be done in different sports, but not in MMA.

"During the week, during the physicals that the doctors give them, they check everyone's temperatures. They were on top of it, and they were ready to go. The fighters wanted to fight. But as a company we decided to pull the plug.

"There's really no major sport that's really operating right now. Here in California, I can't even leave my house! The whole state now is under lock and key in California."

The headline bout of last week's postponed card was between Patrício Freire and Pedro Carvalho, in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix tournament, and Coker vowed that running it off is top of the priority list once action resumes.

"That will be first event we will reschedule when the time is right," he said.

"We don't know when we'll reschedule but it's looking like it's going to be some time in the summer.

"Even the final might be pushed to the end of the year. That's what it's looking like. But we're going to wait and see.

"Hopefully this virus will have an end to it at some point quickly, and we'll get this fight back on the books, and get these fighting again."

Bellator London

Right now, the London card, set for May 16 in the SSE Arena is still scheduled, but they are monitoring the situation closely.

"Right now, it's on the books, it's scheduled. The fighters are training.

"Where will it be with the government? Where will the virus be at that point?

"We're going to go with whatever the government says. We're in close contact with David [Green, Head of Bellator Europe], and he's keeping us posted. It's a fluid situation right now."

But he urged the athletes to continue training and to stay ready.

"I think that the fighters should train. I think there will be a point that in all fairness to everybody, if it looks like it's not going to happen, we'll definitely let them know. And get ahead of it this time."