Kimbo is fighting Dada, and the combined age of the main event is 101 years.
Scott Coker knows many might be asking who’s watching the mixed martial arts card he’ll stage on Spike TV on Friday night, and he also knows the answer: millions.
The Bellator MMA president has never shied from the unconventional, and his tactics, chided by some traditionalists as circus acts, are undeniably gaining the credibility of strong television ratings.
Friday night’s Bellator 149 in Houston is Coker’s latest project. He made a main event between MMA pioneers Royce Gracie, 49, and Ken Shamrock, 52, and has a co-main event between street-fighting legends Kimbo Slice, aka Kevin Ferguson, and Dada 5000, aka Dhafir Harris.
“To me, this is a serious fight between two iconic figures,” Coker said of Gracie-Shamrock. “These guys have stayed in shape, they still have emotion, and when they walk into that cage and the door gets locked, it’s going to be electric in that building.”
Coker said he strives to find a balance between hard-core MMA fights, veteran showdowns and “fun” fights, like Slice-Dada.
“People look for something to talk about,” Slice said when asked who’ll be watching this. “There has to be some kind of beef there. There’s always got to be a good guy and a bad guy. That’s cowboys and Indians. That’s what America is all about. The good and the bad. In this case, it’s the good and the bad and the ugly [Dada 5000]. … On top of that, it’s history. I can’t wait to break that guy’s jaw.”
Coker’s Bellator 131, which featured a main event between former UFC stars Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar, pulled in 1.2 million viewers and was the highest-rated show among the coveted 18-49 demographic in its time slot.
Coker scored another hit with Bellator 138, which featured Shamrock against Slice, who gained attention on YouTube and briefly competed for the UFC. That card averaged 2.3 million viewers.
“Why can’t you watch it all?” Coker asked. “That’s what we deliver: a robust entertainment product.”
Slice faces his former bodyguard and childhood friend Dada 5000, a street fighter from the same Florida neighborhood where Slice was raised.
“I think it was a wise move to put this thing together,” Dada 5000 said. “I’m sure millions of people are going to watch it. The sad part about it is that you have a lot of these MMA guys that eat, live, breathe and sleep MMA and they can’t pull numbers like this.
“People need to understand this is a business. Kimbo Slice is a professional athlete. I am a professional athlete. It’s all about putting it together and giving the people what they want. People demand it and Bellator supplies it.”
Bellator, after recently signing former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, showcases fighters at their peak on its roster, using the old-school name recognition of aging stars to attract the casual viewer.
“That’s good marketing and good promotion, and that’s what we’re doing,” Coker said.