Photo via Bellator.com
Bjorn Rebney responds to Dana White saying that Bellator's blocking of Tyson Nam from signing elsewhere is "borderline criminal" by pointing out that Zuffa has done the same thing many times in the past.
Dana White decided to take some shots at Bellator following UFC 152, specifically taking aim at Bellator's attempts to block Tyson Nam and Roger Hollett from getting out of their contracts. Bellator hadn't used either fighter, had effectively released them, but when there was interest from other promotions, they flexed the "matching rights" portion of their contract.
Unfortunately for Tyson Nam, Bellator seems intent on thwarting his other opportunities. Claud explained that this past summer, Bellator had contracted Nam as a late replacement for Rodrigo Lima at Bellator 64 back in April. However, when Lima was cleared to compete against Hiroshi Nakamura, Nam was pulled from the fight. They then promised him a fight in the season 7 tournament, before once again withdrawing the offer. Additionally, according to Claud, they released him from his contract at the same time.
After UFC 152, White talked about Bellator's actions and saying "It's dirty, it's grimy, and it's just despicable. Of course I have the right to match, but once I cut a guy and let him go and somebody else tries to sign him, I don't come back and say, `Oh, you're breaking the contract. I have matching rights.' You made the decision to cut him. You cut him. That's one of the scummiest, dirtiest things you can do."
Bellator CEO, Bjorn Rebney was on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani and responded to those comments:
"It's a very, very hypocritical statement," Rebney mused.
"We had to go through the exact same process with Zuffa when we signed ‘King Mo.' Zuffa released ‘King Mo' Lawal on March 27, 2012. They went public with their release, they put it up on their own website, on UFC.com, Dana confirmed the release of 'King Mo' to the media on the exact same day, and then in April, when Bellator looked to sign 'King Mo,' we had to submit our full contract to Zuffa. We sent it certified mail to their attorneys. Then we had to wait 14 full business days, which is typically 20-to-21 days in total, for them to decide if they were going to match or not going to match -- which thankfully they didn't, and we ended up with one of the most exciting and entertaining light heavyweights in the world -- but, this is, to the letter, the exact same process.
"So it's one thing to call somebody out on doing something," continued Rebney. "But when you follow the exact same process, the veracity of the comments have to be taken in context with what the real world dictates."
The basic defense for Dana's hypocrisy (and, make no mistake, there is an element of hypocrisy on his part), is that with a guy like Mo, at least Zuffa had given Mo fights. They had put money in Mo's pocket at some point. Yes, stepping in after cutting a guy was slightly dirty on Zuffa's part, but hey...they got a free look at the kind of contract that Bellator was offering to a "name fighter" and were able to hold them up a little bit. That's just competitive business in many ways.
With Bellator and their handling of Nam is that they never gave the guy a fight. They've actively damaged his career by providing no exposure and are now stepping in to try to keep him from a big opportunity. Had they actively been using him on shows and showing interest in his career, it'd be a lot easier to sell them as anything other than the bad guys in the situation.
But, at the same time, a contract is a contract. And if you sign a dumb contract, that's much more on you and your management than it is on the promotion.