First, let me say this: I am in no way bashing MMA Fighting, Bloody Elbow, MMA Mania, Ariel Helwani, Luke Thomas, Blecher Report, MMA Junkie, or any other MMA journalist or website. Ariel Helwani is a fantastically skilled interviewer with a great sense of humor about himself and he has some serious inside dope. Luke Thomas, while not perfect, is bar none my favorite MMA journalist. He's the most intelligent guy talking about this sport, not only does he have a very high level of natural intelligence he actively trains and takes effort to gain the background knowledge of the sport he covers. Anything said here is NOT to be taken as an attack on any party mentioned here.
I had this post in mind right after Bjorn's interview but I got busy. I thought about not finishing it, but with the Pat Healy situation and the Cholish thing coming out, I think it's high time we discuss and beat to death every issue of fighter misconduct that we see. This is still a big issue for the health of our favorite sport.
Second, while I will levy heavy criticism against Bellator, overall I think they do several things well. Mike Chandler, Pat Curran, Ed Alvarez, and Ben Askren are great fighters and they were developed by Bellator. They have managed to do several things well that distinguish themselves from the UFC. They have an incredible infrastructure to put on the amount of fights that they put on. Making all of these things come together is no easy task, and they've got some talented people working for them. Having said, that there's also several things that they are miserable at. One of those is PR. The Eddie Alvarez situation is just one example of these disastrous PR moves.
Bellator has had a pretty bad week so far. First Eddie Alvarez scorched them on Twitter May 2nd (last Thursday), then he went on The MMA Hour on Monday and pissed on what's left of Bellator's reputation. I can't think of a single positive story about the organization that's been published in the past two weeks. After that Leonard Garcia after recently getting cut, discussed the next steps of his career and specifically called out Bellator and stated why he will NOT be signing with them under any circumstances. Somewhere in that timeline Bleacher Report published two devastating articles about Bellator that I would recommend everyone read:
There have been other articles published at SBN's suite of sites stating basically the same thing and plenty of comments all over the internet trashing their reputation with fans. There was a recent story about Chris Weidman and how he was almost sucked into one of their traps to top off the disastrous news cycle they just got over. So lets go over a brief timeline of what happened:
May 2nd (Thursday) Eddie lights Bellator's reputation on fire. He discloses some information that this law suit is costing him dearly. Endearing him to fans by letting them know the sacrifices that he's going through to have his fight. The implication being: "if the guy's willing to do this, he must at the very least think he's right in his heart," which is probably true. This was the biggest story in MMA on Friday and pretty much the only thing to talk about over the weekend.
May 6th (Monday) Eddie goes on the MMA Hour and pisses on what's left of the ashes of Bellator's reputation. The story kinda waned through the weekend, and this got it back in the forefront. With no major fight this was the big story. There were countless comments here and elsewhere slamming Bellator, and questions whether or not other fighters would even want to sign with Bellator if they treat people like this. Leonard Garcia, a fighter that's developed quite the following (albeit in morbid fashion, meaning: everyone wanted to see him get fired) even said that he would NOT fight for Bellator because of this. So this goes on for a few days and we're left wondering what's left of Bellator's reputation.
May 10th (Friday) FINALLY, Bjorn breaks his silence. He talks to Luke Thomas, who just so happens to be the most Bellator friendly MMA Journalist out there. Let me repeat, I am no way accusing Luke of bias or asking Bjorn softball questions because he likes Bellator...however I don't see anyone that talks as much Bellator as Luke does. He does an interview at the very end of a news cycle on the heels of a big UFC fight. Let that last one sink in. Bellator already lost the news cycle, and they try to get their last quip in on the end of the news cycle. Knowing, that Vitor/Rockhold is happening in eight days and that's a pretty big fucking deal, and regardless of what happens on Friday the UFC ( a much bigger promotion that takes up thirty times the MMA airspace that Bellator does) will be putting a ton of promotional muscle behind this fight and fans naturally give a shit more about actual fights than backstage drama at the end of the day. They may as well have not said anything. Just released a statement disagreeing with Ed, saying "we're pro-fighter, the UFC is worse than us, blah blah blah" typical boilerplate "look away" shit.
However, they didn't do that. Bjorn Rebney came on air and to be honest he did absolutely nothing to change my mind, in fact he solidified my opinion. The interview is posted here:
The statements there were, in my opinion, poor.
The opening statement:
Well, the general take about what's happening is that Ed's made a series of statements about Bellator and Spike over the last few weeks that are completely untrue. You know, it bothers me - for as hard as this company works, and as much as Spike has meant to mixed martial arts and mixed martial artists, and providing the revenue, the ability and the platform for so many fighters to earn a great living in this space - for Ed to make the kind of statements he's been making about Bellator, Spike, and Viacom, is offensive. And they're untrue statements.
Okay first off, kissing Viacom's ass and he's indirectly associating himself positive watershed moments for MMA that he wasn't even there for. Spike was big in MMA with the UFC. They took a chance on The Ultimate Fighter and were thrilled with it after the finale. If you're going to go out and give Spike the frothy beej by that token you could also say that Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar built this sport too. Obviously without Griffin/Bonnar I The Ultimate Fighter loses quite a bit of it's magic and I can go on and on, but this this first paragraph is pure bullshit.
He follows it up with this doozy:
In other words: "We were trying to say nothing, but our reputation was so heavily degraded that I had to say something to try to save myself." There's really no other explanation. If Eddie said that they made beat the shit out of sick children and steal from old ladies before the fight, Bjorn wouldn't say shit. Why? Because the statement's obviously false, there's no need to publicly rebut statements that no one believes. However, people were believing him and there was a fighter with quite a name that had specifically said that he would not sign with Bellator because of this.
Then Luke asks him "well Ed says he's a pawn between Zuffa and Viacom, your thoughts?"
i.e. Dana is telling Ed this, Ed just needs to come back home and away from all those wacky Zuffa ideas of him being a millionaire! To me, this is the most repugnant statement they could have made. Ed fucking sold his retirement property, does anyone honestly think that he has any illusions over this? I mean do any of Ed's actions seem like those of a man who lacks conviction?
Again, he's doing that thing where he's taking credit for shit he actually didn't do and to top it off he's lying. People knew what MMA was prior to Spike. That's one of the biggest myths out there. While it wasn't mainstream people knew what it was, why else would Viacom put it on TV?
More disingenuous bullshit. The worst part is the "We went from six to two in four years!!!" Well the UFC absorbed WEC, Strikeforce, and Affliction so realistically went from being number three to number two and only jumped EliteXC who went out of business right as they started. Unless there's some other promotion that I'm forgetting that they allegedly leapfrogged. Furthermore there's this paragraph which really warrants a sentence by sentence breakdown:
Micahel Chandler and Ben Askren I guess the list goes on and on means two guys now Also, I guess they built King Mo, not Strikeforce...oh and Joe Warren's a big name now? Hmmm. Interesting. The worst part about this is that in the last sentence he basically said "If you want to go to the UFC don't sign here," but in this sentence it makes it seem like he's trying to do the best for them. Clearly there's a conflict. Look, I get that it's not good business to let the UFC take all your good fighters, but don't lie and say "well we want to make these guys the biggest stars we can." Just say that hey, look we're not going to let our best guys go...it's bad business. Don't insult my intelligence and expect me to believe that you're just the good guys that are getting railroaded here.
What? You're sure that he realizes that? He just sold his fucking retirement home and you think he thinks you're going to lose? What the fuck sense does that make? Do you think we're all idiots or something? Jesus Christ. I've never seen a more self-aggrandizing, intentionally ignorant of the facts, and dickish statement. And I watch cable news.
A few things I find interesting. 1.) Spike and Viacom make fighters all this money and crossover stars, but they take over and Ed just gets 100K raise in the bonus...seems harsh brah. Second, he's making Ed kiss the ring. He's saying: "We won't even talk to you until you take back everything you said and tell everyone that you were lying. We'll continue to drain you financially until you say that you're a liar and destroy your credibility." Third, more Viacom ass kissing.
Okay, this is the worst kind of statement to make. Why? Because people who are smart will think you're full of shit if you say things like this. I'm not saying that Bjorn is a lair or a snake, but what I am saying is that people who are liars and snakes say similar things. This shit happens in politics all the time. One side will bring up this complete and utter bullshit story and say "if you don't believe me look it up!" knowing full well that no one will look shit up and they'll just think "hey! If he asked us to look it up he must be telling the truth!" or just be too lazy to actually check. Al Franken pointed out one of Ann Coulter's lies doing this. She said that the New York Times said some pretty bad shit about Clarence Thomas, but the footnote is a quote from a Playboy interview with Former Surgeon General Elders. (since I come prepared here's the link: http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh042205.html)
Yeah, Bjorn Rebney a CEO of a company that Viacom bought out did an interview with Luke Thomas, a very good and very well educated journalist, and he didn't think that the details of this contract would come up. Makes perfect sense! I mean why would it? It was only the biggest story in MMA for the past week. Please. "Look it up, I'll get it to you later." What's worse is that Ed, who actually is on top of his shit, published the documents. Those matched Bellator's documents...and Bellator's signed documents didn't have the "material terms" added whereas Eddie was able to produce a contract that did have that phrase in there.
So what's funny here is that he does the same thing in the last paragraph, but hilariously Ed was able to produce documents that back his side up and Bjorn is still in radio silence mode. Now I would call bullshit on 120 countries, as if there's 120 countries that would actually watch MMA or 120 countries where anyone would want to live...but I won't (even though I just did). Bjorn worked hard on Bellator and partly because of his hardwork and the hard work of fighters like Michael Chandler, Eddie Alvarez, Hector Lombard, and Ben Askren, Bellator is a pretty fucking successful company. If I knew that's how my life would end up I'd be pretty content with that. So he does deserve credit for that.
The rest of the interview talks about a few fighters that Ed mentioned, I won't get to that...this piece is already plenty long but he does talk about Leonard Garcia, and this I find particularly hilarious.
Not only did Bellator not offer Leonard a deal, but we've never spoken to Leonard. I will say this and it's probably important for you to get out there because it's important for us as well. For some reason that we don't understand, there are a collection of people out there making phone calls to different gyms and different managers right now claiming to be talent development people with Bellator and Spike.
If anyone out there who is a manager or a fighter or a gym owner get a call, and that call is not from me, Sam Caplan or Zach Light, then they're not speaking to Bellator. And look, I've got a lot of respect for anybody who's got the courage and the guts to step inside that cage. I have no disrespect intended to Leonard Garcia, but coming off of what I think is five back-to-back losses, we had no intent of signing Leonard Garcia. Leonard Garcia has never been on one of our developmental lists. We've never reached out to Leonard Garcia. We wouldn't sign him and we didn't make any attempt to sign him and we never reached out to talk to anybody about him.
Whoever actually reached out or didn't reach out to Leonard Garcia wasn't a representative of Bellator, wasn't a representative of Spike. And I know for a fact there are people out there right now claiming to be talent development personnel for Bellator/Spike. Why they're representing themselves in that way, I couldn't really tell you. You can use your own best judgment as to why they're making those claims, but if it's not Zach Light and it's not Sam Caplan or myself, then you're not talking to Bellator.
So, I have no idea how Leonard Garcia got contacted or by who, but it wasn't by Bellator. We won't be signing nor do we have any interest in signing Leonard
What? There's a Bellator impersonator out there? Seriously? You expect me to believe that Leonard Garcia's management was pranked. Look, I'll be the first to admit that the state of MMA management is pretty bad. It's hilarious what passes off as "good management" in this sport. However, the "cut Leonard" bandwagon had been rolling for sometime. Even if his manager has a half a brain he'd realize that he needs to start investigating back up options. Bellator seems like a pretty logical back up option, no? A tourney and a chance to win 100K? Seems like not a bad fit for a guy like Leonard. Surely they investigated this option prior to Leonard getting cut. Leonard Garcia trains at Jacksons...I'm sure he knows who's Bellator and who isn't. After all, his head trainer is doing Bellator's reality show. Third, so lets say there is a Bellator impersonator. Lets say he did fool Leonard and Co. Why isn't a "world class organization" that's owned by a billion dollar company doing anything about it? You would think that if there is a company like Viacom and there's this rogue troll that's pretending to represent them in contractual matters that they would do something about it? You know, besides bitch to MMA journalists about this.
So then Luke asks Bjorn about "what happens if you win? Will you still take Eddie back"
It's not something that I give an amazing amount of consideration to. Up until just recently, I still thought there was a really good likelihood we'd be able to get this thing settled. I don't think that that exists at this point because like I said, we're just not going to sit back and allow Ed to make completely false, untrue statements about the company and about our partners and then look to settle something with him.
I don't know. It'll depend. Look, lawsuits take an extremely long time. I don't know how long this one's going to take, but by all accounts, it could take well over another year.
What? You haven't given an amazing amount of consideration to this yet? Are you fucking high? This seems to be the most obvious of obvious things. "What happens if we win?" Right next to "what happens if we lose?" Either you're incredibly bad at your job or you want me to think you are. I can't tell which one at this point. He then closes this out with "we'll continue to bleed Ed as long as we can."
To which Luke responds: "Seriously a year?"
Oh yeah, sure. Lawsuits take a long time. The discovery process in this lawsuit hasn't even started.
Leverage baby!!!! And from what Ed said on the MMA Hour interrogatories have started. Interrogatories are a form of discovery, so Bjorn is wrong there. Deposition isn't required for discovery.
Nope. No, nothing on the early hearing dates. Lawsuits take an inordinate amount of time. That's why we tried so desperately to stay out of them. And they take an extremely large amount of time. They require a lot of money.
They never have a great result for either party. Nobody ever walks out of a lawsuit and says, "Wow, that's awesome. Glad I did that." It's one of those things where you both walk away going, "That kinda sucked."
The reality is that there's a bigger issue at stake here and at this point, Ed has made it almost impossible for us to be willing to sit down at the table with him any longer and talk about settlement until such time as he acknowledges that he's made false statements, acknowledges that they're untrue. At which point, we're completely willing to consider sitting down with him and talking about it again. Up until that point, we're not going to sit down with him. We're just going to anticipate that this thing will go to trial. We'll see what happens at trial.
What happens at trial and what the results of that will be and what would happen or wouldn't happen, I don't know. That's a long, long way off. I couldn't even begin to tell you. We'll see if and when that occurs.
This is a long way of saying: We will bleed Ed of every last dime that we can. I mean I don't know how else to read this. Yes, law suits take a long time. However, they can be sped up. Bjorn knows Ed is in a weaker position and the longer this goes the more it hurts Ed and he's taking full advantage of it. Totally legal thing to do, but not really the "pro-fighter" attitude that he's trying to display.
So that's about it of my poor FJM attempt at Bjorn's call with Luke. Again, I think Luke did a pretty good job actually. I would have asked tougher questions, but there's a reason why Luke writes for the big site and I'm in the fanposts. However there were some stray remarks that I found to be untrue or in the "bullshit" category.
I've had amazing positive response from our fighters and there's about 170 of them. The calls that I've gotten, the emails that I've gotten, the texts that I've gotten, they're hugely positive.
Yet we've heard no big fighters laud Bellator willingly. All the responses seem tepid at best. Even frequent UFC critic Ben Askren, perhaps their best fighter and current WW champ has criticized the organization. Of course, it was just for drug testing...but still. No one's that excited for Bellator.
There's no Chael Sonnen here. Nobody loses two fights straight and then talks their way into a world title fight at Bellator
Well he's right, they don't have a middleweight half as good as Chael. And for the record, Chael lost one fight. To arguably the best fighter on the planet and got offered a world title fight due to an injury. Then talked his way into a title fight. He didn't lose two straight and then get the fight.
...being the first organization in the history of mixed martial arts to have the potential to challenge the UFC; being the first organization to have the kind of backing we do from incredible mixed martial arts fans that we have at Spike and from guys who truly love this sport and love the fighters who participate in it, puts us in a very interesting space. And it puts us in a space that nobody yet in the mixed martial arts space has had to be in and has had to deal with. Now we're having to deal with it.
Completely and totally false. Actually there were several MMA organizations that could have challenged the UFC. Pride, Strikeforce, EliteXC, Affliction, and others. Second, the UFC had huge backing from Spike and backing from the people there and their fighters too. I know it's just a quibble, but still...it bugs me. It's like he thinks he's running Pride or something.
Again, let me stress this: I am not trying to bash Bellator. They are capable of some pretty amazing things. Putting on this many shows a year is hard for a company of that size yet they have the talent and infrastructure to do so, and that's impressive and a testament to the work that Bjorn Rebney and others have done. Nor am I trying to say that the UFC, Dana, and Lorenzo are saints. They also do some really messed up stuff. However, no one has accused Dana of killing a dog or using the FBI to threaten someone. An accusation like that is one of those "if it's made and taken somewhat seriously there's a big problem" type of things.
Would anyone who isn't a figurehead for Viacom do this much Viacom asskissing in an interview without being prompted? I mean obviously Bjorn isn't going to go right out and say "yeah I'm just a puppet," but it seems obvious from this interview that he's not the one in charger there. This is quite a bit different than the Bjorn who said he'd let Eddie got to the UFC.
Bellator's actions here, followed up by their disastrous PR leave a lot of questions to be asked. There's lots of things going wrong over there. It certainly doesn't seem like Bellator gives fighters anymore leverage with the UFC, which is what a second promotion is supposed to do, and they have even stated that if you want to get to the big show you need to look elsewhere. It seems even with a viable number two, that fighters are still in as weak of a position as ever with the UFC. And furthermore, it seems like option two is worse than taking whatever UFC will give you.
The worst part about this is that we're all worried about "what the law says" or who is "legally" in the right here, rather than asking ourselves a serious question: "Does anyone honestly believe that Bellator's offer will pay Eddie as much as UFC's offer over the life of the contract?" I mean it seems like a pretty obvious question at this juncture, and I wish someone would ask Bjorn that and I'd like to see him try to answer that in a remotely honest way. Sure, the question may not matter with regards to the court case but it ought to matter to fans.