The new era of Bellator continued on Friday, including more AKA fighters competing in the promotion

The third fight card of the eleventh season of Bellator MMA took place on Friday night at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California and this was another prime example of the new era of the promotion.Bellator 125

The event will be remembered for all of the finishes on the card including Melvin Manhoef securing a title shot in the middleweight division as he defeated Doug Marshall by knockout in the first round.

Of course, Manhoef would not be getting a title shot in his second Bellator fight if the organization was still living by the motto that to get a title shot, you must win a tournament.

While the win by Manhoef is very noteworthy, there were several things that happened in and out of the cage that showed the new direction of the promotion. The biggest takeaway from the card has to do with a particular fight team and that is American Kickboxing Academy (AKA).

AKA is a team that has several notable fighters like Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, and many more. Cormier and Rockhold both came up the ranks in Strikeforce under Scott Coker, but the California based gym rarely sent fighters to Bellator. The only notable fighters to go to Bellator from the gym recently were Ron Keslar and Shawn Bunch.

With the previous leadership in Bellator of Bjorn Rebney, there were some gyms and managers that did not want to send their fighters to promotion. When Coker came into the promotion, that all change and Friday night was an example of that. Look at the fighters on the card that came from AKA or Dethrone Base Camp, which the the gym Josh Koscheck started when he decided to leave AKA after issues with Javier Mendez.

Bob Cook is someone that works with fighters out of those two teams and the most notable prospect to have Cook in their corner on Friday night was Chris Honeycutt. On the preliminary card, Honeycutt dominated UFC alum Aaron Wilkinson and scored a second round victory. Due to all of the first round finishes on the main card, Honeycutt’s fight ended up being shown on the main card broadcast, along with Julio Cesar Neves win against Poppies Martinez.

As Bellator moves forward, a key for Coker is to develop the current talent level of the promotion. One way of doing this is by getting the young prospects out of camps like AKA. If he is able to find the next Cormier or Rockhold, maybe one day, Bellator could be a true competitor to the UFC.