The official car of Bellator would be a DeLorean. All those trips to yesteryear have helped pave an increasingly bright future for the organization. Doc Brown and Marty McFly couldn’t have changed a thing to make it better.
Rejuvenated when Scott Coker, who built Strikeforce into the UFC’s strongest competitor forcing an eventual buyout, took the wheel and steered down the road to former glory enlisting UFC legends to come to Bellator pressers and events and signings. Some blasts from the past eventually headlining cards. “What direction though?” skeptics asked and understandably so, since there are only so many legends to go around and more importantly stay healthy.
Over a million viewers tuned into to watch Tito Ortiz fight Stephan Bonnar, another seven figure viewing audience for Ken Shamrock taking on Kimbo Slice. The old guys were hip again, viable to their loyal fans and to those curious about some of the men who helped shape the UFC and growth of MMA. There was no argument there was a market for these masters match ups, the biggest coming at Bellator 149 when Shamrock tangles with Royce Gracie, two men there from the start of it all over twenty years ago when MMA was more an oddity on the sports scene and UFC meant nothing more than three letters put together.
It isn’t inconceivable this could be the largest tune in yet for any Bellator event. We all like to see our favorites perform and wish in many cases we could see them once more. A step slower perhaps, but they’re still going. In a vicarious way it presents hope to keep trying in our own endeavors, plus nostalgia is an emotion all relate to. No one argued Kobe Bryant deserved to be an NBA All Star Game starter, the point was a tribute to many superb years he had accumulated. It’s not what he is but what he was and what he meant to the sport.
There will be the ardent fans of both men where a win means everything and of course it does to these two proud combatants. But for most it is the opportunity to see them again, that will be the draw.
Somewhere in all the travels back to when, Bellator in recent weeks has shown more where it’s going. Free agent signings of most notably former UFC champ Benson Henderson as well as popular veteran Chris Leben and powerful Sergei Kharitonov have garnered attention. They had already inked former UFC contender Phil Davis. Can there be a true free enterprise never before offered to fighters? Will the current champs or top contenders consider a move from the UFC in the near future? Will some of the stars from AXS TV Fights partners start talking Bellator possibilities as much as they do UFC? These are questions in the dialogue that seemed moot only a few weeks ago. As Coker reminded us on a recent Inside MMA, getting the best available fighters and that meant free agents was always in the plan, there was no secret to it.
Given his track record of success, Coker is again setting his own course. He made the old new again to create instant attention to a rather stagnate Bellator at the time. He appears now to be in the process of blazing a trail through the previously unknown or at least unattainable. A crafty trail indeed. Interesting that men with such a prominent role in putting MMA on the map are guideposts for Bellator in trying to redefine the boundaries of the sport.
There’s a new commercial for DeLorean amid plans for a relaunch 30 years after it was discontinued. Probably a coincidence. But when those gull wing doors swing open Coker leading out Tito, Ken and Royce to meet Henderson, Leben and Karitonov somewhere in the middle of an oasis might be worth a storyboard.
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