Scott Coker is the new president of Bellator MMA, and that may not be the end of the changes inside the second-largest promotion in mixed martial arts.
The promotion and Viacom, its parent company, announced the move in a news release posted on Bellator's web site Wednesday just hours after another release revealed the departures of chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney and COO Tim Danaher.
"We are excited to have Scott Coker lead us in a new direction as we evolve the league format from a tournament-based organization to a more traditional model with big fights,” said Kevin Kay, president of Viacom-owned Spike TV, which serves as Bellator's television headquarters.
No reason was given for the move. In the statement released earlier Wednesday, Rebney indicated that creative differences were behind the decisions.
"Viacom and Tim and I differed in our views of the right strategic direction for Bellator, but Tim and I both wish them well," Rebney said
So far, Coker—a venerable and respected presence in the MMA community—also has not commented publicly on the news, which has long been rumored in MMA circles even before Wednesday's announcements. However, Bellator has scheduled a media conference call with Coker for 6 p.m. ET Wednesday evening.
Also on Wednesday, MMA reporter Ariel Helwani offered some additional details of the deal.
Kay said they will "evolve the league format from a tournament-based organization to a more traditional model with big fights."— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 18, 2014
If Bellator does move beyond the tournament format, that would indeed be a major shift away from the Rebney era, which prided itself on the tournaments it used to identify new title challengers.
Coker has a long history in combat sports, having founded Strikeforce as a kickboxing promotion in 1985. Strikeforce hosted the first MMA event in the state of California in 2006.
Strikeforce helped cultivate the careers of fighters like Nick Diaz, Robbie Lawler, Daniel Cormier, Jacare Souza and Jake Shields. UFC parent company Zuffa purchased Strikeforce in 2011 and later absorbed much of its roster.