The UFC makes its New York City debut in just over two weeks with UFC 205. Bellator MMA, its biggest competitor, has a plan but no definitive details about when it would enter the market.
Bellator MMA has been planning to host an event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn since mixed martial arts was legalized across the state earlier this year, but the promotion has yet to schedule a date that will work will for all parties, said Bellator president Scott Coker.
“We want to bring the right fight there,” Coker said on a conference call Wednesday.
Coker said the company was hoping to hold its light heavyweight title fight between champion Liam McGeary and Phil Davis in Brooklyn, where McGeary lives. Instead, the fight will headline Bellator 163 on Nov. 4 at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
“If we were going to put it together, this fight would’ve been one of the big fights on the card, but we’re going to wait, and when we do it, we’re going to do it right,” Coker said.
McGeary was disappointed it couldn’t get done this time, but he’s looking forward to making his Barclays Center debut in the future.
“It’d be massive, I’m really excited,” McGeary said. “They said we couldn’t get it done beforehand, but it’s right around the corner from where I live, it’s a really nice venue, I’ve been there a few times and it would be good to put on a nice MMA fight night for all the Brooklyn fans.”
Coker said there’s no timetable for exactly when Bellator would make its New York debut. He believes the first show in the state will be in the city and said he’s had talks with both Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden. He also said Bellator and Barclays Center have a few dates on hold but would not specify when.
World Series of Fighting has a multi-title fight card scheduled for New Year’s Eve at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Combate Americas already hosted a card at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, earlier this month.
No matter where or when it happens, Coker promises that Bellator will go all out for the first show.
“It’s New York, we’ve got to come strong,” Coker said. “There’s some great talent on the roster, and I think timing is going to be an issue of when these guys are available, but I really don’t have anything to announce as far as timing or who’s going to fight, other than I think you’ve seen some of the big, mega-fight cards we’ve put together and we’re going to do the same or even bigger for New York.”
Coker also believes having Viacom, Bellator’s parent company, based in Manhattan will make a New York card more likely to be among the promotion’s biggest.
“Viacom is based out of New York City and we’re going to do it right.” Coker said. “All those executives at 1515 Broadway from Viacom will come to the show, and it’s going to be a great showcase for all the properties and it’s going to be big planting the flag in the ground for Viacom in New York City.”
Whenever it does happen, Coker knows Bellator will have to live up to high expectations.
“New York’s been waiting 15 or 20 years for an MMA show,” Coker said. “And there’s going to be a lot of MMA now that it’s legal.”