Scott Coker, Showtime continue WMMA legacy with Bellator.
MMA fans tend to credit Women’s MMA milestones to the UFC but long before Dana White was claiming women would never fight for his promotion, Scott Coker and Showtime were not only supporting women in combat sports – they were highlighting them on Strikeforce cards. Their stamp on the history of WMMA is often overlooked but substantial nonetheless and it’s about time the spotlight was shined back where it belongs.
“I’ve always been a big supporter of WMMA, but most importantly, a fan,” Coker told FanSided. “Whatever networks I’ve worked with over the years, I have always strived to grow WMMA. My first go-round with Showtime we were able to accomplish many great things together like promoting the first WMMA main event. With Showtime, we have a partner that share those same desires to elevate the great females competing in our sport. Now that we’re back on the network, I look forward to picking up right where we left off and continuing to do great things for WMMA.”
Coker and Showtime are responsible for highlighting women’s MMA before in was even on the radar. Showtime aired the very first televised women’s MMA fight when Gina Carano defeated Julie Kedzie on Feb. 10, 2007. Then on Aug. 15, 2009, Coker was responsible for giving women the main event billing for the first time in the history of the sport when Carano was defeated by Cris “Cyborg” Justino. That moment marked a turning point in women’s MMA and for Justino.
It makes sense that Bellator, the new home for Justino, would find its way back to Showtime.
Now the pair sets its eyes on history-making moments yet again. And it’s already giving the women the edge. Bellator’s first bout on Showtime was a women’s scrap between Alejandra Lara and Kana Watanabe. Once again, Bellator is showcasing female talent.
“It’s really cool to come full circle,” Liz Carmouche told FanSided. “Showtime, even having nothing to do fighting, has always been one of my favorite networks that I like the TV shows on. And then you take the symbology that it has for me as far as my start with StrikeForce in my entry into it, it’s really great to come full circle with the same company again.”
Women like Valerie Loureda and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, who are homegrown Bellator-built stars, are not the only names the promotion is highlighting. Other women who have already made an indelible mark in the history books like Liz Carmouche, Cat Zingano, and, of course, Justino herself are creating headlines on a familiar platform.
Bellator and Showtime hope to continue to make history for WMMA
These women, many of who FanSided spoke with directly are well aware of the history the partnership holds. They are also aware that Bellator and Showtime will be putting forth the effort to continue making history in WMMA.
“I’d really love to see us headlining more pay-per-view,” Carmouche said. “I think that that will be a significant change for women. It doesn’t seem like that occurs very often, more often it’s men. And then see more weight classes open up. Right now it’s kind of limited, not just in the UFC, but also in Bellator and all the other organizations I see. There’s just not a vast majority of the weight classes. I think we’re missing out on some of the women. I think we’ll see more history-making moments when we open up those other weight classes.”
Her counterpart and fellow history-maker, Cat Zingano, agrees and would also like to see female coaches highlighted.
“Just highlighting some of the women coaches as well,” Zingano said. “Where things have come from as far as that aspect of it. I find some MMA stories in general why people fight is such a big deal. And there’s always like a huge deeper meaning and it kind of always comes from somewhere heavy. Because this is people a lot of times a coping mechanism or their distraction or their way that they have an outlet towards something, or they just always thought and always wanted it and this was what was big to them. And I think those stories for men and women are interesting, and I’d love to see more of the women where everybody came from and why.”
Coker is on board with history-making ideas, specifically where the women are involved.
“Any time you have an opportunity to make history like that you’ve got to take it,” he said. “I thought it was great to see AJ and Antonio McKee both get wins at the same event, and to see a mother and her daughter accomplish that goal would be a great milestone for WMMA. I know that at Bellator 257 Julia Budd and her stepson Lance Gibson Jr. are competing on the same card, which will definitely be a special moment for that family.”
Coker and the women of Bellator are itching for their own Grand Prix
One of the things that fans have been calling for is a Grand Prix featuring the women of Bellator, that’s something Coker says he’s interested in.
“Our goal is to have a single weight class participate in a Grand Prix in a calendar year,” Coler said. “Obviously, the pandemic has caused the delay in wrapping up the featherweights and we’re kicking of the light heavyweights this week. But we were strongly considering doing the tournament with the women’s flyweight division. When we look to the future, honestly, either of our women’s divisions would make for a very compelling tournament. We’ll definitely be assessing throughout the year.”
And it’s clear the women of Bellator are ready as well.
One thing that both Carmouche and Zingano are adamant about is the way they are treated as equals under the Bellator and Showtime umbrella.
“There was never that that hesitancy, or questioning of whether or not I actually belonged here,” Carmouche said. “[Coker] has been very open about that since the beginning, and I felt accepted since the beginning, and they seem to want to do everything they can do to empower women. They seem to do a lot of things to let them have a free voice and how they display who they are with each of the fights, that’s something really appreciate.”
“I feel like a lot more respected and I feel a lot more supported,” Zingano said. “And I mean they want to know what is best for you from you, and that freedom and knowing that you have a say in how you’re feeling, and what is right or wrong with you, and what dates work for you, and actually being compensated in a way that it’s not frightening, or you’re not just paying off your injuries from the fight, that feels really supportive. The evolution is great, and to move up into weight classes and to be bigger, and to go to a promotion that is actually really nurturing and really building this heavier weight class, I think it’s really important too, and really special, too.”
Bellator and Showtime will continue to showcase female fighters and Cyborg vs. Leslie Smith will headline a card in May at Bellator 259. This, along with many other milestones for women are still to come with Bellator and Showtime.