Prospect Building: How Bellator is Prepping for the Future

Within the past couple of years Bellator has made some key signings. The Viacom owned MMA promotion has effectively signed some of the sports sport’s biggest names and top ranked fighters. On top of the big signings Bellator has built in talent that has shown on more than one occasion that they have the ability to compete at a top level. With a multitude of talent and continued pursuit of top ranked competitors Bellator is looking more and more like a real threat to the top spot. However they aren’t stopping there. Under the supervision of Scott Coker, Bellator is building for the future.

     After the UFC acquired their biggest competitor in PRIDE FC another promotion by the name of Strikeforce became a player in the mixed martial arts world. Under the ability of Scott Coker the Showtime Sports promotion became a powerhouse in its own right. The company was able to build up stars like Tyron Woodley and Cung Le, while making names like Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler even bigger. The rise of Strikeforce was proof with proper management and the right signing decisions a company can compete with the UFC. Now Scott Coker is working with Bellator and making the right moves to do the same.

     We have seen Bellator’s short term plan as they sign legends of the sport to create more viewers. We have also seen them execute meaningful signings of top 10 fighters. Now we can see their long term goal as the secure top prospects before they become top prospects and look to build stars out of the talent that pans out. It’s a low risk, high reward tactic that could give them the edge in finding the next big star in MMA. Not only are they signing big talent but they also have Bellator Kickboxing which could provide many opportunities for crossover stars.

     Two of Bellator’s most recent signings Romero Cotton and Jarod Trice have never competed in professional MMA. Romero Cotton is a three-time NCAA champion. A wrestling record of 66-10 the four-time Division 1 All American is a special talent that could make a successful transition into the sport. He will fight in the middleweight division where Bellator is already pretty strong. Jarod Trice is another outstanding wrestler. A three-time Division 1 All American Trice will compete in the light heavyweight and claims he is coming to take over under the promotion.

     This isn’t the first time Bellator secured big wrestling prospects. Two of the best collegiate wrestlers in the country made their MMA debut at Bellator 163. Three-time NCAA wrestling champion Ed Ruth completed in the middleweight division. It took him under 4 minutes to dispose of Dustin Collins-Miles, and he showed of his natural athletic ability and potential as a fighter. Good heavyweight prospects aren’t easy to come by and 2013 Division II wrestler of the year Tyrell Fortune looked showed outstanding potential earning a TKO victory after a vicious knee in the first round of his MMA debut.

     While targeting powerhouse wrestlers is one thing, Bellator isn’t stopping there. Top jiu-jitsu practitioner Neiman Gracie is undefeated through five fights competing three times as under the Bellator banner. The 27-year-old middleweight prospect has shown much in the way of potential more recently defeating long-time mixed martial arts vet Rudy Bears by armbar in the first round. A member of the legendary Gracie family it’s no secret that he relies on his jiu-jitsu and thus far has proven very effective in his transition to the sport.

     Saturday at Bellator 165 Kickboxing star Keri Anne Melendez will be making her debut as a professional MMA fighter. Wife of the former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, there is high expectations for her debut. Already competing successfully under the Bellator Kickboxing banner. The highly talented striker Melendez is out to prove herself as a mixed martial artist as well. Another professional MMA debut will take place at Bellator 165 this Saturday. Kevin “Baby Slice” Ferguson will be fighting on in the preliminary portion of the card. Son of the famed Kimbo Slice there is a great deal of interest surrounding the debut of Baby Slice. 

     This way of finding prospects is a sensational strategy for Bellator. Debutants don’t come very expensive to the company. If the young prospects happen to become stars and contenders it pays off for the world’s second best promotion. If they are unable to develop into top contenders it was a small risk that cost the company very little in the end. Building contenders isn’t easy and building household names is an even more difficult task. However Viacom putting their trust in Scott Coker has turned out well thus far, and if he can build like he did in Strikeforce, it will continue to turn out well.

     There are five more events this year for Bellator starting with Saturday’s Bellator 165. It has been the biggest year in the promotions history and everything points to 2017 being even bigger.