Bjorn Rebney: Our fights and fighters are the fuel for the entire machine


Recently, Bellator FC has been making waves in the world of MMA with their new season on Spike TV. From signing King Mo (with ‘mixed results’) to a string of impressive knockout and submission finishes that have garnered strong ratings for the Thursday night show, it appears there is a new player in town.

Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney had been in the news for his ongoing contract dispute with former champion Eddie Alvarez, but now finds himself there in a different light. He sat down with Mike Chiappetta of MMA Fighting to discuss the newfound exposure of the promotion:

“I think the most important thing is that the fights have been remarkably good. The fights and fighters are the fuel for the entire machine. If there’s one thing I’m most happy, there’s been amazing fights and performances. The tournament format has rung true, with competition being the driving force of Bellator, not how well you speak and talking your way into the things. It’s all about the competition, and the competition’s been amazing. That’s the driving force of what’s been great.”

Rebney is obviously proud of the competition level his fighters have put forth this season, and he should be. The fights in Bellator have shown truly hungry competitors looking to cement a place amongst MMA highest levels. While those fighters have not reached the pinnacle of success yet, it’s very clear that they are willing to work hard to get there. There is a ton of great talent in Bellator waiting to break through.

Their most high-profile fighter Muhammed Lawal got knocked out in spectacular fashion by Emanuel Newton earlier this season, definitely throwing a wrench into the gears of Bellator’s grand scheme. However, Rebney has a plan for this unfortunate circumstance:

“We rebuild him in a huge way. We put him back in, get him busy as quickly as humanly possible and we rebuild him. The magic of MMA is that anything can happen on any given day. I’m sitting in my hotel room late at night after Mo’s fight and I’m watching SportsCenter, and the No. 6 moment of the day was the highlight of Emanuel Newton, this guy many people had never heard of, executing a spinning backfist that hit Mo right on the button. “

“That moment is what we are all about. We’re not going to take King Mo or Chandler or Curran or anybody else and feed them cans to get them to the promised land. You have to win the toughest tourney in sports to get to earn your shot at a title. If you get through, you’ve absolutely earned it.”

So Rebney rolls with the punches, and emphasizes that his company is unwilling to give his big name stars an easy ride to the tournament finals. It is no doubt a tough format, testing the fighters’ endurance on their way to a coveted title shot. King Mo would attest to this. Rebney appears to know who his moneymakers are, but he also knows they’ll have to keep winning impressively to keep their momentum.

And of course, Rebney had to address the biggest issue facing him and Bellator, the drawn-out contract dispute between Eddie Alvarez and his company. He seemed optimistic about the subject, but everyone is still unsure of when we’ll see Alvarez in the cage next:

“We try to keep the door open to have communication and we have had some talks. My hope remains that we’ll be able to get it settled. We have had talks. It’s tough to tell. I’m hopeful it gets settled but we’re in the process of talking and I just don’t know that it will. Our attorneys have been instructed to try to work through it and get a settlement worked out so we can get it behind us.”

“The tone of the talks have been more positive than they were in the past. My hope is that we can keep them going in a positive direction and maybe get this thing worked out. It’s hard to gauge because obviously, we have two different positions. But I think the tone has been positive. We’ll see. My fingers are crossed.”

Rebney also focused on not signing a ton of UFC castoffs, and noted he was not close to signing Jon Fitch or Rampage Jackson. Josh Barnett, however is supposedly on his radar. He spoke of all Dana White’s trash talk about Bellator, noting that he lets comments like that roll off his shoulders. Overall, Rebney appears to be a focused leader with a clear plan in site. While it would be easy for them to sign any and all UFC castoffs, they took a more revolutionary approach in banking on their own talent, and it appears to be working. 

While Bellator is still miles apart from the UFC in terms of events and exposure, it’s clear that another promotion is at least making some headway. And that’s a refreshing departure for many fans. I think having Bellator available as a viable, action-packed option is great for the sport. They have a good system in place. Now, only time will tell if they can consistently make fight cards worthy of a rise to the top levels of MMA. 

  • comment, rant, rage, vitrioloic jag, etc…

  • "The fights and fighters are the fuel for the entire machine." I'm glad Bjorn appreciates the fact, but…Dah!

    No fighters, no fights…no promotion, no fans, no coverage, no sport. It's a pretty simple equation.

    The thing I'm most interested in right now, is what NBC is up to. I'm interested to see how this plays out, now that the sport has grown enough to warrant more corporate interest. For all we know, NBC might come out with solid fights and fighters (signed UFC #9 ranked WW John Fitch, for example) and over the course of next two or three years and singing more X-UFC fighters, cut or otherwise and signing more Bellator fighters, they could well end up winning the MMA wars.

    My feeling is, that as long as The UFC relies on PPVs' and a mix of…it's on FOX for free sometimes and then other times you have to buy it and as long as Bellator is just a tournament style promotion (which I feel is less attractive to MMA fans), then anything is possible. NBC might higher the right people and could well spend the money necessary to sign great fighters and perhaps, eventually, the best fighters. I would neither right off, nor discount NBC's desire for success in MMA.

    I believe that ultimate success will fall to the promotion that kills the PPV and puts it all on TV for free. I do not believe that The UFC's top spot in the world of MMA promotion is guaranteed or written in stone. If enough quality fighters can be singed away from The UFC, then anything is possible.

  • Bellator is smart they are investing in their format moreso than their fighters. And they dont want UFC cast offs because they are expensive. I think the one exception is the HW division which is always thin. Look for Josh Barnett king of Bellator! 🙂

  • at this point i dont care who it is but some1 needs to get alavarez a fight. He is in the prime of his career and is sitting out for same amount of time like guys who get suspended except his reason is BS. get him a fight already!

  • I'm pretty sure Bellator got rid of the "Fighting Championships" and are now BellatorMMA. Mostly from viacom trying to distance themselves from the UFC.

  • Sure Bjorn, you think so highly of the fighters. That is why you are screwing Alvarez by playing legal games and pretending to 'match' the UFC offer. Yes, Bjorn, the judge at the hearing might have been fooled into thinking Bellator would 'match' the UFC PPV offering by Bellator putting on their first PPV, but the fans know better.

    The bottom-line is that fighters are forced into signing unfair predatory contracts with Bellator, the UFC and whoever. They could choose not to fight. They could choose to take that pizzaria job–but for some reason, they sign on the dotted line because they really have no choice if they wish to be a pro fighter.

    Bjorn is a crocodile–with a very nice smile.