Bellator president Scott Coker is hopeful his organization can resume events in July, but he’s being cautious amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Coker already has made the decision to postpone a number of events as the global COVID-19 crisis continues to spread. It started with March’s Bellator 241 event, which was called off the day-of, and has extended through June. Making the call to suspend events, which are the lifeblood of Bellator’s operation, comes with all sorts of repercussions.

For Coker, though, it’s simply the right thing to do.

“It started with the March 13 event getting postponed,” Coker told MMA Junkie. “We were all in New York, and the virus that week was just starting to hit, and New York was a hotbed for the spreading of the virus, so we decided to shut it down because it was the right decision. I told (everyone) to go home and spend time with their families, and we’ll regroup when the time is right. This is something I thought would be down for a month or a couple weeks, and we could go back to work. But it’s a very serious situation, and a lot of people have passed away. A lot of people won’t be back. It’s just heart-wrenching to see the hundreds of thousands of people.

“You talk about the people infected and the people passing away, it’s a serious situation. So I told my guys, ‘Look, there’s a time for fighting and putting on these events. There’s a time to be home with your family hunkered down and be safe, because at the end of the day I want my team to be safe and healthy.”

Although Coker has paused operations for the time being, it doesn’t mean he isn’t plotting for the future. He revealed July as the tentative timeline for Bellator to kickstart events again, albeit in a dramatically different format.

Coker said he’s in a fortunate position, though, with the ability to use assets of Bellator parent company Viacom to his advantage.

“We do have a plan, and the plan really is to come back sometime in July on a soundstage either in the Paramount lot or the CBS lot, and start doing fights in a closed environment with no audience, at least for the first three, four months,” Coker said. “Because even if they say audiences can come back, I think it’s going to take time, because people don’t have the confidence. The consumers are not going to want to come back to a sporting event and be around thousands of people right from the beginning. It’s going to take time to earn people’s trust that this virus is on its way out.

“But in the meantime we’re going to keep promoting live events, creating content, putting these big fights on, and it’ll be a closed environment. It’ll be on Paramount, it’ll be on DAZN, and the replays will be on CBS Sports Network.”

Having a Paramount or CBS lot at his disposal is a large benefit, but the questions about health and safety still remain. Coker ensured that he has no intentions of skirting around those concerns, and he vows to take every possible measure to protect his staff, athletes and the general population. He was insistent that he’ll work closely with the athletic commissions to exceed all requirements.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time to get this thing figured out, and once they do, they’ll present us with a protocol of what’s going to happen,” Coker said. “Then we’ll go back and ask what we want to do in addition to that (with our staff and production). Even in a closed environment we’re probably going to have 40, 50 people in that building at one time, and we need to make sure those people are safe, and we have their health and safety in mind first. This isn’t something we want to take lightly, then somebody gets sick, then somebody has a problem, then we all have a problem.”

Coker said he’s as keen as anyone to get back to normalcy. However, he is being vigilant and doesn’t want to make any missteps along the way.

“Once we find (the venue), negotiate it, create it, get the commission on board, then we’ll go into that setting and start producing these events, which will be made for TV,” Coker said. “Then we’ll monitor it. Is this going to be another three months, five months, two months? Nobody really knows. I’m hoping that it’s over soon because we all want to go back to work and have our fighters fight and get back on TV and do what we do, but again, until it’s safe and we can really make sure all the precautions are done to manage everybody that’s going to be there, we’re going to put a pin in it until we figure it out.

“If it’s not in July, it’s going to happen in August or September or some point. We’re hopeful that in July we’ll get ready. … At the end of the day this is a business, yes. But we’ll make up that money and we’ll make up those fights. But the health and safety is not something you can make up if things go bad. It’s a business, but it’s still a business of people, and a business of fighters. When the time’s right you’ll get the call and we’ll take care of you and we’ll honor our contracts. Just be patient and we’ll get through this thing together, then we’ll get busy.”

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