Bellator today officially unveiled two new female fighters, Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd who will join the promotion’s new 145lb division.
“We’re incredibly excited to bring in two of the best athletes competing in our sport today,” Coker said. “We are making a commitment to bring back the female division to Bellator, and feature some of the world’s best in the Bellator cage.”
This is a clear change in policy under Coker’s rule as a year ago former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney opted to disband their female divisions.
Coker knows both Coenen and Budd well having previously signed them both to the Strikeforce promotion. Coenen was at one point the Strikeforce 135lb champion, initially defeating Sarah Kaufman to earn the belt and then successfully defending it against Liz Carmouche before a submission loss to Miesha Tate ended her reign in 2011.
Since then Coenen has fought for DREAM and Invicta FC and overall the 33 year-old is one of MMA’s most experienced female competitors with a 21-6 record set over a 14 year period.
Budd made her debut in the Strikeforce challengers series and produced a 2-2 record there, but has faired better since then in a four-fight unbeaten run in the Invicta FC promotion, to take her record to 6-2 overall.
Coker has clearly seen a gap in the market here since the UFC have so far been reluctant to bring on-board a 145lb division to their ranks. That means he may also have another former Strikeforce 145lb champion Cris ‘Cyborg’ in his sights too since she hasn’t been signed to the sports leading promotion yet, though there have been indications recently that she is finally going to attempt a cut down to 135lbs in order to secure a deal with the UFC.
‘Cyborg’, who’s currently fighting for Invicta FC, has always had health concerns regarding dropping a weight class though, and with Coker now throwing his hat into the ring with a new option at her natural division, he may be hoping to lure her away from the UFC.
Rumors were also swirling within the last week that Coker may have also been poised to sign Gina Carano (yet another fighter who he knows from her Strikeforce days), and while Bellator have shot down the idea that they have captured her signature from under the UFC’s noses, Coker has admitted that they have held preliminary talks with her.
It would be an impressive feat if Coker was somehow able to get the female Strikeforce gang back together, but the potential flaw in the plan is that we’ve seen these fights before. ‘Cyborg’ has already defeated Coenen handily twice at 145lbs and also defeated Carano with relative ease inside of a round.
Nevertheless, female fights attract attention as Coker learned at Strikeforce the UFC now realizes too, and so it seems like a shrewd move on his part to give Bellator a seat at the table too.