Bellator was once Bjorn Rebney’s baby, the promotion he founded in 2008 and built from the bottom up. Now? Rebney said he doesn’t really consume the product.
Rebney’s idea of what Bellator — and MMA — should be seems to be a contrast to the current path the promotion is on at this stage.
“What they’ve been doing over the last few years obviously isn’t how I’d do it,” Rebney told Ariel Helwani on a recent episode of The MMA Hour. “Again, that’s just business.”
Rebney created Bellator and installed tournaments that fighters must win in order to earn title shots. Rebney was very much about the sport of MMA, about a merit-based system. He sold Bellator to media giant Viacom in 2011 and the tournaments were gradually given less importance. In 2014, Rebney was let go as president of Bellator and Viacom hired Scott Coker, former promoter of Strikeforce, in his place.
The Bellator of 2016, which airs on Spike TV, is different from the Rebney days. Coker has signed big stars, formerly of other organizations, and earned major ratings for it, while also attempting to build young prospects from within. The matchmaking, like it is in most MMA promotions like the UFC, is slanted toward entertainment and ratings potential.
Rebney said he wouldn’t take the approach of bringing in aging fighters like Kimbo Slice (who passed away earlier this year), Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, and others.
“I haven’t watched much of Bellator, because it isn’t what I’d choose to watch at this stage,” Rebney said. “It doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad and it doesn’t mean I disrespect or don’t have great admiration for the Franks and or the Kens and for the Royces and those guys. But it’s not my thing.”
Rebney still swears by the sporting aspect of MMA — champions fighting top contenders regardless of drawing power and an emphasis placed on the competition and not the hype. When he sold to Viacom, Rebney said he had to cede some decision-making to the company, which is just how it works in those situations.
“They’re very, very different,” Rebney said. “Obviously, very, very different. With that comes the ability of the company to make all of the decisions. Entrepreneurs deal with that sh*t all the time.”
Rebney surfaced suddenly after more than two years out of the public eye during the MMA Athletes Association (MMAAA) launch conference call two weeks ago. Rebney said he is working in an advisory role for the association, which is hoping to even the balance of power between the UFC and its fighters. The MMAAA is seeking a settlement for former and current UFC fighters, an equal share of revenue, and eventually a collective-bargaining agreement like the ones in MLB, the NBA, etc.
Rebney estimated on the call that UFC fighters only get paid 8 percent of the UFC’s revenue. And a major concern for the MMAAA is that the athletes don’t have full-scale health care of protections after retirement, like a pension.
“If this doesn’t get fixed, we don’t have a sport in 10 years,” Rebney said. There is no possible way mixed martial arts can continue on this trajectory.”
It was a surprise appearance for Rebney, who has been criticized as a promoter who was hard on fighters at Bellator. Rebney said he wants to be an advocate for athletes now and believes he understands the inner-workings of promotions enough to be a boon for the organization effort.
The MMAAA will not encompass Bellator fighters at this stage. The focus will be on the UFC, as it is the world leader in the space, Rebney said. Bellator is the pretty clear No. 2, though it is not something that currently strikes Rebney’s fancy.
“It doesn’t make any of that stuff bad or it doesn’t make it not the right thing,” Rebney said. “It’s just not my thing.”
Source:: mma fighting