Bellator MMA on Thursday put many rumors to rest, but fueled several others, by announcing the re-launch of women’s MMA under its banner.
Bellator released the final women on its roster in August of 2013, ending its commitment to the women of the sport. But that was under the management of Bjorn Rebney, who has since been replaced by Strikeforce founder Scott Coker.
Coker on Thursday confirmed that we would once again see women in the Bellator cage, beginning with the featherweight division and a fight between Strikeforce and Invicta FC veterans Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd.
“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.”
Coenen (21-6) is a former Strikeforce champion that has been competing in MMA professionally in 2000. The last time she stepped foot in the cage, however, was more than a year ago, in a losing effort against Invicta FC featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino.
“After fighting professionally for over 15 years, I am honored to be invited into the Bellator cage,” Coenen said. “Fighting for Bellator brings my spirit back for fighting! It is great to be working together with Scott Coker again as we both have the same vision on fighting. My style is fighting with the objective to knock my opponent out or to submit her. That is exactly what I am planning to do the very first second I step into the Bellator cage.”
Budd joins Bellator riding a four-fight winning streak and is currently considered one of the top women fighters in the world.
“I’m ecstatic about the opportunity that Bellator is giving the 145 female division and I’m especially excited to be one of the first females to fight for Scott Coker under the Bellator banner,” Budd said. “This gives me the opportunity to showcase my skills as one of the best fighters in the world on one of the biggest stages in the world.”
Coenen and Budd are scheduled to square off later this year inside the Bellator cage live on Spike TV.
With the announced signings of Coenen and Budd, the focus immediately shifts back to speculation that Bellator has been trying to sign another former Strikeforce champion in Gina Carano.
While UFC president Dana White has consistently said that he believes his company will get a deal done with Carano, he also added recently that “it was complicated,” without divulging any further details. The “complicated” part could be that the UFC wasn’t alone in its effort to get Carano under contract as most believed at the time. The UFC now appears to be in a war for her services.
If Bellator were able to secure the services of Carano alongside the likes of Coenen and Budd, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that Cyborg might follow.
While talks appear to be underway, MMAWeekly.com sources were unable to confirm that either Carano or Cyborg was close to signing a Bellator deal.