Mar 11, 2017 @ 09:34 AM Author’s note: In this series, FORBES SportsMoney will cover the most influential professional MMA promotions on a global and domestic (U.S.) scale, catching up with high-ranking executives to learn about each organization’s biggest developments as 2017 gets into full swing. We continue our series with Bellator MMA, a promotion headquartered in Santa Monica, California thatlaunched in 2009 and was purchased by Viacom in 2011. Rory MacDonald will make his long-awaited debut for Bellator in the spring. (AP Photo/John Locher) Bellator MMA has been on an upward trajectory ever since its new owners at Viacom/Spike TV handed Scott Coker the reigns in 2014, but things have really picked up in the past year on the strength of marquee free-agent signings and highly-rated “tentpole” events. And according to Coker, fight fans should only expect more of that winning one-two punch going forward. Bellator is planning an increase to eight big shows this year, with the chance to hit one per month within the next 2-3 years, and will continue to doggedly pursue the sport’s top talents to feature on these cards. “If you look at the fighters we signed last year and the fighters we’ll get this year, I believe we’ll have an 80 to 90 percent success rate with the fighters we wanted to sign who we feel would move the needle for us,” Coker said. “Any fighter we feel can add value to this roster, we’re going to go out there and do our best to sign him.” Over the past year and some change, Bellator has truly arrived as the clear No. 2 in this space behind the UFC, landing former champions/title challengers like Benson Henderson and Rory MacDonald, as well as elite-level draws including Chael Sonnen and, most recently, Fedor Emelianenko. But while fighters of this caliber, and fight cards along the lines of the Sonnen-headlined Bellator 170, mean big business, Coker stresses that the smaller shows are just as crucial to the company’s long-term health. Much like the “Challengers” series for his now-defunct Strikeforce promotion, the less-heralded events Bellator puts on every month offers top prospects a chance to get their feet wet before being thrown into deep waters. “Really, that’s where we find the talent,” Coker said. “(Strikeforce Challengers) is where we found Tyron Woodley and Daniel Cormier and Luke Rockhold and all these gems. I think the combination really makes for developing a nice roster.” In hopes of finding the next crop of future champions in a more competitive market, Coker has really tapped into the collegiate wrestling circuit, signing All-Americans like Jarod Trice, Joey Davis and Tyrell Fortune, as well as the soon-to-debut 20-year-old Aaron Pico — arguably the most-anticipated blue chipper in MMA today. Of course, fans are more concerned with the immediate debut of Fedor, whose Bellator 172 headliner was called off late, and MacDonald, who is main eventing the promotion’s next tentpole in May. The site of Rory’s return will be in the UK — a market Bellator is really honing in on due to Viacom’s regional networks. It also doesn’t hurt that two of the promotion’s homegrown stars — MacDonald’s opponent Paul Daley and Michael “Venom” Page — hail from across the pond. “Because we have Channel 5 and Spike UK, which are Viacom owned, I think you’ll see Bellator there at least four times in 2017,” said Coker, who also assured that Daley vs. MVP will eventually happen in their home country. Paul Daley (Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images) The promotion is also eyeing a pair of new markets as MMA continues its explosion internationally. “One of our goals this year is to do a fight (card) in Asia and somewhere in Latin America — probably Argentina, Brazil or Mexico.” The expansion of Bellator is a continued testament to the collaborative efforts between Coker and the stakeholders at Spike TV. It’s a bond that has secured the company’s future as an increasingly viable alternative to the UFC, even as Spike undergoes a rebranding as the calendar flips to 2018.