Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney breaks down the first season of Bellator on Spike TV, talks about some of their top fighters, and a lot more.
While Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney doesn't maintain the same public presence that UFC president Dana White does, he's readily accessible to the media to talk about his promotion. Mike Chiapetta of MMA Fighting was able to score a wide-ranging interview with Rebney that touches on all sorts of things - how he feels about their first season on Spike TV, potential signings, some of their top stars, the Eddie Alvarez situation, and a lot more. Here's a look at some of what he had to say, but you really should head over and read the whole thing - it's quite detailed.
His thoughts on the first season on Spike:
I think the most important thing is that the fights have been remarkably good. You can create amazing feature pieces and perfect the show from a production standpoint, you can tweak and change things and promote it. But If the fights aren’t spectacular? 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.
I’d say the fights have been amazing. When a show gets over, I review the DVD minute by minute, second by second. I have 7-8 other senior executives who do the same thing. We exchange notes and have several meetings and review all facets of the event. I think production’s getting tighter. We’ve made intentional changes to get to fights quicker. It seems to have generated positive fan response. We’re evolving and growing. There are still a lot of things that we can still change and make better.
On how to deal with King Mo's loss to Emmanuel Newton from a promotional standpoint:
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.
The reality is, when this tournament was set up, people were talking about King Mo meeting Babalu in the finals. Those are the moments that speak to how good Bellator is. We’re going to build Mo back. I talk to him constantly. We’re planning the strategy. He’ll have to go through same gauntlet to get there. If he gets through, he’ll earn that shot at the title, but he’s not going to leapfrog over anyone. He’s not going to get in by any way other than earning it, and that’s what makes us different from the competition.
On signing former UFC fighters:
You’ve seen it, there’s not a hard and fast rule. We signed Mo out of Strikeforce. We signed Ben Saunders. We’ve signed guys before. Every once in a while you’ll see a guy bounce in. But our format is one to look from within. That’s the mainstay of what we do. But there will be guys who come around. We’ll see a guy who may have lost but has wicked talent. We’ll make a signing like that. It’s not the focus of what we do. There’s other organizations that come and go and their focal point was signing guys that used to be with another organization. That’s a model that has proven itself repeatedly to be very unsuccessful.
He also made specific mention of Quinton Jackson and Josh Barnett as guys he sees in Southern California and says they're on the radar, but basically stated that they're more interested in grabbing prospects from around the world. Finally, this is what he had to say about the Eddie Alvarez situation:
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.
He said the tone of the settlement talks has been "positive", but he's not sure isn't sure how it will turn out. If he does come back though, a rematch with Michael Chandler is something they'd like to do:
That is a very viable and very realistic option. We’d have to see how everything works out in terms of a settlement but that’s obviously a fight we’d love to see. I know it’s a fight that a lot of fans would love to see. It’s surely a very realistic, substantive option.
Again, you really should read the whole thing as it is quite informative. You can check it out here.