Exclusive: Weigh-in scales from iconic Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier 1971 classic to be used by Bellator MMA on June 24

Gareth A Davies
The Telegraph
Bellator MMA takes its fight show to Madison Square Garden on June 24  - Bellator MMA/Bellator MMA 
Bellator MMA takes its fight show to Madison Square Garden on June 24  - Bellator MMA/Bellator MMA 

The weigh-in scales used for the iconic 'Fight of the Century' between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971 are to be used by Bellator MMA when they make their first foray at Madison Square Garden on June 24. 

Bellator MMA CEO Scott Coker revealed to me yesterday that organizers at The Garden had offered the use of the scales - which are part of the hallowed venue's iconography and still kept there - and that he was "thrilled at the prospect".    

"Growing up as a kid that was probably the most iconic fight in the history of boxing that I ever knew of," Coker told The Telegraph in Chicago, where Quinton Rampage Jackson and 'King Mo 'Lawal headline with a 'repeat or revenge' grudge fight at heavyweight tonight. 

"I grew up on Leonard vs Hagler, Duran vs Hearns. I watched all those fights back on PPV in the eighties. I loved it all, man. There's nothing like a big big fight to get you going."

"Dylan Wanagiel is our contact at MSG. He just said 'Hey, if you want to use the scales that Ali and Frazier used you're welcome to do it. I'm like are you kidding me? Of course. It's such an honour," explained Coker. "That's why The Garden is such a big deal. I felt it walking out to do that press conference on Tuesday this week. This is a special moment in my life I'll never forget."

Bellator MMA's big names - Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen, the Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko - plus two title fights and a clutch of exciting newcomers will make the first Bellator pay per view card since it was acquired by media giants Viacom a major event. 

Coker explained that "there's not one of our fighters who hasn't called and said hey I want to be on that card. I'm like, I know. There's a line over here and we're taking deposits. We'll do our best to put on an amazing fight card from top to bottom. I think we're on our way to putting on something historic."

That includes new signings Ryan Bader and Lorenz Larkin, who have moved from the UFC through free agency, and Conor McGregor's jiu jitsu sparring partner of the last year, Dillon Danis, who is soon to make his debut in MMA.   

Coker claims that Bellator's growth and projection are steaming ahead. "In 2016, we had record ratings for Bellator. In 2017 we are beating the 2016 ratings by 72 percent. So, Tito Ortiz fighting Chael Sonnen, big gate, big numbers, big LA hit. And then unfortunately the Fedor-Mitrione fight didn't happen (in San Jose last month, due to a medical issue) but that would have been big."

"Now we're making lemonade out of lemons. We're made the best scenario out of a compromised scenario. Then you've got Rampage and King Mo. Rory McDonald versus Daley. We've then got the MSG card with all those studs. We haven't even finished announcing this card yet. Wait until you hear the complete line up. It's going to be unbelievable."

One of the issues for British fans of Bellator MMA, is the retrospective screening of events. Coker says not a day goes by when he does not think about it. "We're exploring other options to air live. The fans that want to see it live can see it live. If you want to wait a week you can watch it the traditional way we do it. I think we will have a solution for those fans as well as for the fans who want to watch it on Spike UK at a future date."

On May 19, a Bellator MMA card at Wembley Arena will be aired live on Channel 5. Knockout artist Paul Daley's headline fight with Canadian MMA star Rory MacDonald is a mouth-watering prospect, with Michael 'Venom' Page, from a UK family of freestyle karate world champions facing the tough, dangerous American Derek Anderson.  

Coker also insists he will be adding more fighters to the burgeoning roster. "If it don't make dollars it don't make sense. Our goal is to bring in every fighter we want. Not every fighter we will want. But every fighter we feel will be a good fit, and if they're a free agent, we'll go after them."

"Go talk to these guys and see if they're happy here. They're happy. They're the star of the show and we treat them like the star of the show."

Then Coker is back to enthusing about the Madison Square Garden pay per view. He says any Bellator MMA pay per view event "will be special".

"I'm a consumer of ppvs," he urged. "I'm their target demographic.I buy the big ppvs in boxing and MMA but I don't buy them every month just for the sake of it. I want it to be a big event. The Event. In my mind this is the best ppv in 2017 so far. Something could come along later but it better be a strong card. From January to June 24 there is no other event that is a bigger ppv card than the one we're producing. I believe that. Anyone in this industry would back me up on that."

Bellator 175: Mo Lawal vs Quinton Rampage Jackson will air in the UK on April 1 at 10pm.

Follow Gareth A Davies who will be live blogging from the arena in Chicago.




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