Bellator CEO Scott Coker discussed Bellator’s upcoming light heavyweight plans following Bellator 175 Friday. The card, which featured King Mo Lawal evening the score with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson with a unanimous decision win, went down at Chicago’s AllState Arena. Talking about the promotion’s title picture, Coker made it clear that Ryan Bader against current light heavyweight champion Phil Davis is still a fight the promotion is very much interested in, and that the winner of Mo vs. Bader would be looking at a title shot.
What wasn’t clear was whether champ Davis would fight in the interim.
Speaking to the assembled press following the event, Coker confirmed that Mo vs. Bader would serve as the “headliner” for Bellator 180, which is being treated as a separate event from the PPV portion of the card, title Bellator NYC.
Tonight we announced the main event for Bellator 180 in Madison Square Garden. It’ll be the Spike portion between 8 and 10PM. That’s going to be King Mo fighting our new signee, new free agent [Ryan Bader]. Which, we’ve been going after a lot of free agents. We’re excited for that fight.
When asked about plans for Bader vs. Davis, Coker elaborated on the thinking behind not granting Bader an immediate title shot — something the promotion did with another recent free agent signing, Lorenz Larkin.
The thing about Bader-Davis, is we felt that that fight deserved to have its own main event, be its own fight. Ryan Bader as you know had a great fight against Phil, and I know he [Phil] would like revenge on that fight. At the end of the day, I feel like that could be a main event, and that’s something we could do before the end of the year. The winner of that fight [Mo vs. bader] could fight Phil Davis again for the title. So if Bader’s successful, he could fight Phil Davis, and vice-versa.
And what about Davis? Will he fight in the coming months, or wait for the winner of King Mo vs. Ryan Bader at Bellator 180? On that, Coker wasn’t entirely clear.
That’s something I’m going to sit down and talk to Phil about. He wants to be active, everyone wants to be active. We’ve got some great plans for him.
Clearly, the Mo vs. Bader fight is the biggest non-title light heavyweight bout the promotion could book, especially given the retirement of Tito Ortiz, and Jackson’s decision to move up to heavyweight (not to mention the fact that Rampage may now be heading back to the UFC). Bader (22–5) was a top five light heavyweight in the UFC, who many felt was deserving of a title shot. Lawal (21–6 (1)), meanwhile, remains one of the top light heavyweights outside of the UFC along with Davis, but has struggled with chances to capture gold.
However, the question then becomes who Davis would fight in the interim. Former champion Liam McGreary recently got back on track with a win over Brett McDermott, but with Davis having defeated him the win the title in November, fans aren’t exactly clamoring for a rematch. Waiting, however, could see Davis be inactive for much of the 2017 calendar year.