Scott Coker has always been MMA’s secret weapon.
The moves Coker’s made in the shadow of UFC President Dana White’s cult of personality is as remarkable as it is understated.
Coker is the current CEO of the revamped Bellator MMA promotion and he recently signed a free agent and women’s KO artist, Cris “Cyborg Santos. Her social media-based quarrels with UFC President Dana White spilled into real life and when she demanded White apologize for insensitive and disparaging comments he and UFC commentator Joe Rogan made a few years ago.
Before the ascension of Amanda Nunes, Cyborg was the progenitor of women’s MMA and a top-billed attraction. This is a feat she built with Scott Coker and amplified with Dana White. That’s why it was shocking that White would alienate one of MMA’s biggest stars and not surprising that Coker would scoop her up immediately.
Cyborg made her biggest early impacts with Coker’s Strikeforce, destroying MMA’s then “It” girl in Gina Carano via first-round TKO in 2009. She won the inaugural Strikeforce women’s featherweight belt becoming a champion in 9 fights.
The magic behind the Coker brand is drenched in one word, and its been made famous by Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna.
“Loyalty, Loyalty, Loyalty”
The former martial arts instructor from the San Jose, California Bay area took a small martial arts school and gym “smoker” fights to the number two organization in the world.
However, this is nothing new. Coker created that distinction a few times with a few martial arts promotions brands over the years.
Ever heard of Strikeforce? It was the small kickboxing turned MMA organization from Northern California that created stars out of Nick Diaz, Paul Daley, Frank Shamrock, and Gilbert Melendez.
Coker’s diplomacy made him the only MMA promoter to have a TV deal with premium cable in Showtime. While Dana White chose to ride with his recently athletically absent megastar, Conor McGregor and quarrel publicly with Showtime Sports President, Stephen Espinoza, Coker always took the high ground.
When the founder of Bellator MMA, Bjorn Rebney, began to steer the company’s reputation into a bad place, new owners Viacom sought out Coker to take the helm. Coker had to wait out his noncompete clause after selling Strikeforce to the UFC.
When Paul Daley was banned from the UFC and Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal was passed over by the promotion, each became stars at Strikeforce and Bellator. Even after the UFC capitalized on the Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson hype train only to dump him after two fights, Bellator became his home until his surprise passing in 2016.
With a dual-sport focus in MMA and kickboxing, high-level free agent signings like Ben Henderson, Matt Mitrione and Cyborg, and future stars in Michael “Venom” Page, Coker is becoming the Al Haymon of martial arts.
Now with affiliations with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and the full resources of Viacom and streaming partner DAZN, Coker is the best friend martial arts has ever had all while maintaining his image as a fighter’s advocate and not the athlete’s chief critic like White.
Coker has set the bar for the MMA business and it is built on diplomacy and growth of the athlete’s, unique personalities, and the brand, not self-aggrandizement.