Bellator president Scott Coker planned the promotion's 241st event at Mohegan Sun Arena in Ledyard, Connecticut months in advance. As the SARS-Cov-2 rapidly became a global pandemic, Coker closed the show to the public, allowing in only media, in response to Connecticut governor Ned Lamont limiting groups in the state to 250. Then Coker planned fighters, corners, event staff, and officials only. Then just hours before start time, he canceled the event and paid everyone.
In a recent interview with Steven Muehlhausen for DAZN, Coker broke down what happened. The tipping point was Donald Trump's press conference hours before start time, during which he declared a national emergency.
"It seemed like the virus started to affect some of our staff," Explained Coker. "What I mean by that is, we had a meeting where I said, 'Look, if you guys are uncomfortable, you guys can go home.' Some of our staff was wanting to get home and get back with their families, and it started affecting the team. We didn't know what the President was going to say on Friday. People thought it was going to be a lockdown of domestic travel, and so people start freaking out about how am I going to get home?
"We have international fighters. It started becoming an uncomfortable situation all the way around. We shut it down at that point."
"To help them ease the pain of not fighting, we told them we're going to compensate them. I think they felt really good about that because these fighters only fight two, three times a year. So, they make their money two, three times a year and that's it. If we didn't pay them, they probably wouldn't have fought for three months or four months before that. So, that means for eight months, they're not getting paid.
"But not just the fighters, but I'm talking the officials, the cutmen, the judges, referees, athletic commissions, the vendors, the event personnel ... we paid everybody out. 'Look, this is this way we want to handle it, and we'll make up the revenue at some point during the year.' That was how I looked at it. It was an easy decision because it was the right thing to do."
"I feel like this is something I'm responsible for. How would I want to be treated in a sense? Yes, there is a bottom-line number that we have to generate. It is a business. There's a profit/loss at the end of the year. To me, this is revenue that we'll be able to make up at some point. I feel good about saying that.
"If someone were to get sick, infected, something should happen, I would not be able to live with myself because I made the call. Numbers are numbers, but this is a people business. Business is about people. This is something that I've always believed in. That's how I run my fight companies over all the years."