Multiple sources have confirmed to Awful Announcing that Bellator MMA is making their first change in the broadcast booth since 2010. Long-time play by play commentator Sean Wheelock will be leaving Bellator and is being replaced by Sean Grande, the radio voice of the Boston Celtics.
Wheelock had worked alongside Jimmy Smith in Bellator since their 13th show, which took place in April of 2010. He worked for legendary Japanese promotion PRIDE FC before their eventual sale to the UFC before moving on to M-1 Global, where he formed his team with Smith. Bellator president Scott Coker told AA that the company wanted to go in another direction with their commentary.
It’ll be interesting to see how Smith works with Grande, an experienced voice in calling more traditional sports like basketball, baseball, and hockey. Bellator’s product has been changing by leaps and bounds over the past year following the ouster of founder Bjorn Rebney and the hiring of former Strikeforce head Coker as the new company president.
During a discussion with AA, Bellator executive producer Scott Fishman pointed to the success of NFL Network’s Scott Hanson on Spike’s PBC coverage as an example of how a more traditional sports commentator can thrive in calling combat sports. Bellator expects similar success with Grande, who has no experience calling MMA or other combat sports.
Coker has taken Bellator away from the tournament format and has guided it towards more of a traditional superfight/merit-based title shot based promotion. Bellator has also shifted from running shows weekly and towards running them monthly, resulting in incredible viewership for their Kimbo Slice-Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz-Stephan Bonnar main events.