Scott Coker On Fedor, Josh Barnett, Leslie Smith, Kyoji Horiguchi & More

Ahead of this weekend’s Bellator 220, Bellator President Scott Coker spoke to BJPenn.com, about some of the organisation’s plans for the upcoming months.

The first of which was whether we may finally get to see Fedor Emelianenko vs Josh Barnett, now that Barnett has signed with the promotion. The two were due to meet ten years ago in Affliction MMA but Barnett failed a drug test, which resulted in the California State Athletic Commission refusing the former UFC heavyweight champion a licence.

“That would be something huh? Him (Fedor) vs Barnett, the fight that never happened. That would be amazing. [Barnett getting a title shot for his debut] hasn’t been determined, but I think that his manager was looking for a fight in between that fight and then the title fight. But Josh would like to fight for the title and we’re just trying to work out the schedule because he needs a full camp to train.

Coker also added that he hasn’t spoken to Fedor, since the Ukrainian born Russian lost to Ryan Bader in the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix final, in January.

“I haven’t talked to Fedor about anything because he’s been in Moscow but I will be sitting down with him in Chicago. And I’m going to ask him, you know, say ‘what are your plans, what do you want to do?’ Because if [he] would like to continue, I would love to put together a tour for him and maybe, you know, fight in Japan one time, fight here in the US, fight in Moscow. And we would promote all of them and have like a victory tour like a victory lap. But he might say, ‘No, I’m not interested, I’m just going to go work for the government,’ or not working… I don’t know what his plans are. So in a couple of weeks, I’ll have a clear direction of what he wants to do.”

As well as signing Barnett recently, Bellator has also signed Leslie Smith, who hasn’t fought in twenty one months. Smith left the UFC in strange circumstances. She was due to fight Aspen Ladd in April 2018 in the last fight of her contract. However, after Ladd missed weight, Smith looked to renegotiate her contract to keep the fight alive. But instead the UFC parted ways with her, giving her her show and win money as if she had fought.

This was thought to be because of Smith being a very strong advocate for the creating a union in MMA, particularly with her Project Spearhead campaign. Something Coker was very aware of.

“I’ll tell ya, we definitely had our finger on the pulse of that whole situation. And what made me feel really comfortable was sitting down and talking to her and seeing what her beliefs were. I told my guys like, we can find common ground here. And she trains with Gilbert and Keri [Melendez], I feel very comfortable, they’re like family. And so to me it’s like, I felt very comfortable. Gilbert really wanted this to happen. And after talking to her and sitting down, I said, ‘Okay, we get it. We can make this happen.’ And we get it. 

“So, you know what, if we didn’t all feel comfortable, I don’t think we would have signed her. And now she’s part of the family and we’re gonna treat her like part of the family and give her every opportunity to move forward and get the big fights.”

The Bellator boss was also asked about when we’re likely to see the Kyoji Horiguchi vs Darrion Caldwell rematch, after Horiguchi defeated Caldwell at RIZIN 14 last New Year’s Eve, with a rematch in Bellator agreed beforehand.

“There’s nothing contracted but we’re working on it, but there’s nothing contracted because you know, it’s not going to be overnight, we all know that. But when you’re dealing with two organizations, two fighters, just translating the documents back and forth…

“The one thing I told Sakikabara is, ‘Look, we’ll fight any of your guys and win, lose, draw… It doesn’t matter. The only thing I ask is that we have to have access to the fighter if they become the champion. So if ‘DC’ is going to put this belt and Horiguchi wins, we have to have access to Horiguchi in the future. So we’re trying to work out the final details of that.”


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