Scott Coker discusses partnership between Rizin and Bellator
Bellator president Scott Coker gave an intriguing interview with ESPN earlier today in which he discussed the relationship with Rizin. Darrion Caldwell is facing Kyoji Horiguchi at Rizin 14 on New Year’s Eve and if the Japanese fighter wins he will be heading west.
“Nobuyuki Sakakibara and I got on the same page. If Horiguchi comes here and wins, then he’s a two-belt champion, and once a year Sakakibara will send Horiguchi to Bellator to defend that belt against the next title contender. That was important to both of us,” Coker told ESPN.
He also confirmed that, should Caldwell win the Rizin bantamweight belt this month, he will be back in Japan to defend that title.
“If Darrion Caldwell wins the Rizin belt, at least once a year, we’ll send DC (Caldwell) to Japan to defend that belt, because it’s not fair to them to put their championship on the line and if he wins; sorry, you don’t have it anymore.”
Bellator vs Rizin
Caldwell will not be the first Bellator fighter to feature on a Rizin card. Fedor Emelianenko, Muhammed Lawal and Hisaki Kato have all fought for Nobuyuki Sakakibara in recent years and Coker raised the intriguing possibility of the two promotions joining forces for an event.
“I think Rizin and Bellator will work multiple times together next year. It could lead to a big event where it would be ‘Rizin vs Bellator’ in Japan or over here, next year. I think you’ll see that type of collaboration.”
Rizin was founded in 2015 while Bellator has been putting on fight cards since 2009. However Coker and Sakakibara have both been in the business for longer than their current promotion. The former was in charge of Strikeforce until the UFC buyout while the latter headed up Pride which went the same way a few years earlier.
Champion vs champion
While Rizin has awarded belts to tournament winners it does not have a regular champion yet. Bellator has title holders in nearly every division and Coker confirmed to ESPN that there would be future fights pitting the two promotions’ best fighters together.
“Our champ versus their champ, I like that. It has a good ring to it. People are going to be excited about having our champs fight their champs. It makes a lot of sense. That door is always open. We have to have a relationship where each promoter knows the relationship will continue past one event. If those hurdles are managed properly, events like this can happen, which is very exciting for the sport.”
First up will be Caldwell’s fight with Horiguchi on December 31st. It is a battle that pits two of the top bantamweights outside of the UFC together and Coker is proud to have helped make it happen,
“I’m happy we put it together. It wasn’t easy, but DC (Caldwell) is going to have a chance to go to Japan and fight which is something he wanted to do.”