It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2017. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
UFC President Dana White may have once again grabbed the headlines in 2017, mainly due to his contributions toward making the boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor a reality. But as impressive as that accomplishment was, the staff at Combat Press believed the executive of the second-biggest MMA promotion had the more notable year overall.
Combat Press staff voted Bellator MMA President Scott Coker as its “Executive of the Year,” and with good reason. Coker continued to grow Bellator in 2017, mainly by boosting its roster via the signing of key free agents and through the development of young talent. Coker brought several notable names to Bellator, including Lorenz Larkin, former UFC bantamweight title challenger Michael McDonald and Ryan Bader.
Bader wasted no time making a splash in Bellator. The former UFC light heavyweight contender defeated reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis — another Coker free agent signing — for the title at Bellator’s first card at Madison Square Garden in June. Coker also stacked Bellator’s MSG card with stars who are well known to fight fans, including Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen.
Coker also continued to sign young talent to Bellator, including fighters like Aaron Pico and Ed Ruth. He also stayed one step ahead of the UFC and launched a women’s flyweight division in Bellator, which crowned its first champion in Ilima Lei-Macfarlane and boasts young and veteran talent alike, such as Emily Ducote, Lena Ovchynnikova, Kate Jackson, Kristina Williams, Alejandra Lara and Valérie Létourneau, who happens to be another free-agent signing of a UFC veteran.
Bellator also expanded to other countries. The promotion held events in Ireland, Israel and Italy. It also expanded into the kickboxing world with its own promotion, which is a testament to Coker’s passion for combat sports. That passion and Coker’s vision for providing an entertaining product for MMA fans worldwide made his selection as “Executive of the Year” an easy one.
Other finalist: Martin Lewandowski (KSW)
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2017 MMA Award winners.