ellator plans to be involved with every single major MMA free agent in 2015. And that apparently starts with Brock Lesnar.
Scott Coker, Bellator’s president, told MMA Fighting this week that the promotion has reached out to the former UFC heavyweight champion. Coker said there have been no actual negotiations, it was just Bellator’s way of “saying hello” and that the company is interested in his services.
Lesnar is still under contract with WWE, where he is the reigning champion, and will be reportedly until after Wrestlemania 31 on March 29.
“There hasn’t been any serious dialogue,” Coker said. “But when the time comes to have serious dialogue, we’ll be right there.”
It’s unclear whether Lesnar will even return to MMA. He has a pretty good, high-paying gig with WWE in what amounts to a part-time role. However, multiple people, including Lesnar’s good friend and on-air manager Paul Heyman, have said Lesnar is still insanely competitive and believes he could beat all of the UFC’s current heavyweights.
Lesnar, now 37, retired from the UFC in December 2011 after being knocked out by Alistair Overeem at UFC 141. But truly, Lesnar was never completely healthy during his run in MMA. He suffered multiple bouts of diverticulitis and needed invasive surgery several times.
“Brock wasn’t healthy,” Heyman told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour in August. “I don’t think Brock has truly understood nor accepted the severity of the illness that took him down. They did blood work on Brock and they found out he wasn’t healthy for many, many years. His body was fighting this affliction off and using so much of his energy.”
It’s no surprise MMA organizations would be clamoring for him, either. Lesnar is the biggest draw in the sport’s history — almost a lock to exceed one million buys on pay-per-view in his heyday. Coker knows this and said as much on The MMA Hour earlier this month.
“I think that he’s a big needle mover,” Coker said. “There have been several years that have passed and I think that he still has the WWE limelight.”
During that interview, Coker said Bellator had not spoken to Lesnar. Since then, officials have attempted to start a dialogue. If anything, it’s proof that Bellator and parent company Viacom are extremely serious about challenging the UFC for viable free agents.
“There’s not going to be a fighter on the planet we can’t afford and have access to,” Coker said.
That also goes for Gina Carano, someone Coker knows very well from his days running Strikeforce. The feature-film actress said in interviews over the summer that she was interested in returning to MMA after a five-year absence. The UFC and Carano were in negotiations for months about a potential title fight with Ronda Rousey, but it fell through.
Coker does not know if Carano will ever compete again — he knows she’s very busy with movies. But if she does step into a cage, he’s going to try hard to make sure it’s in Bellator.
“Her schedule is getting booked up, but if she was in the market to fight again we would definitely be interested, for sure,” Coker said.
Bringing in big names is all part of Bellator’s plan next year and beyond to reach out to the viewers that the UFC might have lost recently. Coker believes that started with earning more than two million viewers for the Bellator 131 bout between UFC Hall of Famers Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar on Nov. 15.
“I think one of the things we were really able to do bring is back the casual fan,” Coker said. “Those casual fans seemed to have jumped away from MMA for a little bit. Names like Ortiz and Bonnar brought them back.”
Lesnar and Carano would likely bring even more eyes.
“If fighters like that are available, you can be sure we’ll make a run at them,” Coker said.