Reading over Tim's post about Gilbert Melendez, it briefly glosses over Rebney's reaction to MMAFighting. The full reaction post by Shaun al-Shatti over at Fighting is basically an expanded version of the post here at BE. I decided to fan post his quote and analyze it because I think it really fills a major void in this story. When the first comment is "LOL BELLATOR", I feel like the story is incomplete. This is not to suggest Tim's post was subpar in any way. Before further analysis, let's jump right into the quote itself:
"It's my understanding that the UFC matched the deal we agreed to with Gilbert," Rebney said. "While I haven't yet spoken to Gilbert's management team, I have heard from various sources that the UFC matched our offer. We have a stacked lightweight roster and Gil would have made a great addition to it, yet I'm glad he was able to go out, explore the free agent market and get paid what he deserves. That's what the free market system is all about. I'm happy for Gil, that through this process he was able to ensure long term financial security for himself and his family. That's what the fighters that put it all on the line inside the cage deserve.
"This process has shown that in MMA, there are two legitimate options for fighters. And, as I said last week, with two large scale options for fighters in MMA, fighters negotiating power is dramatically improved. Our actions throughout this process accomplished that for Gilbert right now, and in the future it will do the same for countless additional fighters. Some will end up in Bellator and some will end up in the UFC. But, either way, the sport benefits. Now our focus turns to the task at hand, which is our Season 10 kickoff this Friday on Spike TV."
Here we stand, with two fighters, one from each company having tested the market and been matched. I highly doubt Melendez and his management will put up the type of fuss Alvarez did, which unfortunately will make many think that these two situations are not identical. Both companies contracts are similarly restricting, and it seems that sometimes the UFC slides free from the bad rap it deserves. For a long time it was argued that while these clauses existed, they had not exercised it to keep fighters from signing away. This arguement is now obsolete. It will be definitely interesting to see how the war progresses in the future. For bias sakes, i hold the view that neither companies contracts should be legal, and that a MMA analog of a Union / Muhammed Ali Act is required.
Another interesting development is the seeming reinstatement of Bjorn as a person who wants to wants to develop the fighters brand and the sport itself. Don't get me wrong, Bellator is a business like the UFC and every other. But not every business is equal and there are many roads to success. For example, in the fight for worker rights those who would decry Walmart and CostCo equally would be slapped by those who know not all big box stores are the same. Bellator's business model has traditionally seen to be less restricting to fighters in the areas of sponsorship for example. This leads me to the quote coming from Dave Meltzer's awesome article last week :
"I can't be too specific (about Gil's deal)," said Rebney. "But it includes on-air opportunities, entertainment opportunities behind-the-scenes, some marketing opportunities, really, the whole genesis is Gil-specific. The key to the deal is building the Gilbert Melendez brand, not the Bellator brand or the Bjorn Rebney brand. The fighter's brand is what's important. The focus was on talking to Gil and his team. How do we leverage all the different resources to build the `El Nino' brand, and that's what got us all on the same side of the table to put this structure together."
Anyone who has been around since the BFC (Now BMMA) days of being on Latin American cable can verify that these statements are very similar to the rhetoric Rebney often talked about in the early years. Bjorn Rebney was always in the news of MMA websites of course, but rarely was he the center of attention the way Dana White is. The Eddie Alvarez storm was very unfortunate to every party, and did damage to Bellator's brand. But the clouds have seem to gone away, even if just for a little while, and Bellator's original brand promise seems to have tunneled back to the surface. With a stacked Season 10 lineup, a prominent backing partner in Viacom, and a solid home on Spike TV, life in the number 2 promotion is definitely headed on the upswing and I for one am excited to follow it.