Scott Coker took it slow when COVID-19 took over the world, as he held his Bellator events at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut without fans. Unlike the UFC, who forged ahead earlier than any other MMA promotion or major sports league, Bellator remained complacent that the right time would eventually come. And, sure enough, it did.
Over the last eight months or so, Bellator has returned to the likes of Ireland, San Jose, Arizona, Italy and many others locations. One of those locations in the ladder category is Chicago, Ill., as Bellator 288 plays host to two title fights at the top of the bill, including light heavyweight title challenger Corey “Overtime” Anderson, as he’ll rematch Vadim Nemkov in the finals of the long-awaited conclusion of the Grand Prix.
Anderson wasn’t originally pleased with having his second crack at gold be in his home state, according to an interview with WTVO Eyewitness News Wednesday.
Despite Anderson’s original doubts around the fight’s location, as he is a Rockton, Ill., native, Coker is keen on continuing to make Chicago-based Bellator events a priority, given the promotion’s intent for global expansion. Its recent shows have been at Allstate Arena, but this time, the home of the DePaul Blue Demons, Wintrust Arena, will play host to the night’s festivities.
”So, when COVID hit, we had a scheduled date already at the Allstate Arena,” Coker said during a media scrum after the ceremonial weigh-ins Thursday. “So, there was a date on the books. We were gonna work towards [coming back to Chicago], but then COVID hit and everything got shut down.”
The road back to a sense of normalcy has been slow for Bellator.
“Coming out of COVID, really it’s only been, you know, six months, eight months kind of where we’ve been looking for venues and places to go,” Scott Coker said. “This is a big target for us as far as, you know, developing this market in terms of fight fans and delivering great fight cards.”
Friday night will mark the promotion’s first trip to the Windy City since 2019.
Can you see Bellator returning to Chicago in the near future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, Penn Nation!