Bjorn Rebney interview: Bellator CEO talks Curran/Pitbull/Straus and why there is so much negative Bellator press


In this exclusive Bloody Elbow interview, Bellator's Bjorn Rebney talks about matchmaking, criticisms of Bellator, and the company's battle with the UFC.

This past weekend, Bellator put on the third show of their 10th season. Bellator 112 was headlined by an incredible, FOTY quality fight between Pat Curran and Daniel Straus - a fight that saw Curran regain his Featherweight title with seconds left in the fight.

At the post-fight press conference, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney announced that Curran would next face Patricio Pitbull for the belt, with Straus challenging the winner. Rebney's matchmaking announcements have been under some scrutiny lately, with Pitbull himself loudly voicing his frustration over the Curran vs. Straus rematch, and questions from many about some recent fights.

At Bellator 112, I had a chance to speak with Rebney to get his thoughts on the tournaments, matchmaking, and people's perceptions about the company. Get Rebney's thoughts here in this exclusive Bloody Elbow interview:

Q: Is there a conflict between the Curran/Straus/Pitbull matchmaking and the tournament format, and will Bellator move away from tournaments?

Rebney: Look, Straus became Straus out of the tournament, Curran became Curran out of the tournament. That's the case with all of these guys. I don't ever want to forget the evolutionary process that gave us Daniel Straus, and that's the tournament.

So what I have to do is I have to be cognizant mathematically of not over-tournamenting certain weight classes like we have here. Straus and Curran and Pitbull are three of the best Featherweights on earth so the opportunity to do fights with those guys is something I'm going to take advantage of because they deserve it. So what I've got to do is potentially slow down the tournaments at 145 to give these fights a chance to work themselves out and then start it up again. It's about seeing what's happening and being able to react accordingly.

But I'm never going to turn away from the tournament because that's literally where we get Daniel from, that's where we get Chandler from. So no.

What about season 8 winner Frodo Khasbulaev, who has not fought in Bellator in a year?

[Frodo] still can't get the visa cleared. He's a wickedly talented fighter but he's just not in the mix because he can't get in the country. He can't even get into Canada. So there's nothing we can do with Frodo right now except hope and wait and have our attorneys work with his attorneys and try to get through the immigration process, which is a tough situation.

Will we see Pitbull vs. Curran on the PPV?

[Straus vs. Curran] was a grueling fight for Pat and it's only two months out so I am not sure I want to ask him to make that turnaround. Pitbull is a monster... Pat can't be fighting in 2 months against a guy like Pitbull.

Our talent team has done an incredible job proposing [PPV] fights to me, but I wanted to get past Alvarez vs. Chandler and Mo vs. Rampage and then we'll start to fill in the spots from there.

Why do you think Bellator draws such a negative reaction from many in the online community?

I don't know. I think the UFC has ruled MMA with an iron fist for many, many years and there are a lot of people whose lifeblood is connected to the UFC. Very few people are willing to say anything that conflicts or confronts the UFC mantra and philosophy.

It's never, ever easy to be the guy chasing the #1 and trying to take over that #1 spot. That's a very difficult fight and it's a fight that we have legitimately now been engaged in for about a year plus. Before that we were just another player in the space and nobody really knew us. We had this cool tournament format and a few good fighters and everyone was like "yeah, ok there's some good fights in Bellator." But over the last year since we launched on Spike suddenly the thought process has changed. People look at us and they go "wow, Curran and Pitbull and Straus really could beat anybody on the face of the Earth, and Chandler and Alvarez are two of the best Lightweights in the world" and on and on. And the ratings speak for themselves. We've been one million plus on the peaks for two weeks straight, and I bet we're one million plus on peaks this week as well, so we're beating the UFC in a very important area which is cable ratings.

When people have been attached to a certain thing for an extended period of time that's going to generate a little bit of a knee jerk thing. Change is always a very difficult thing for people to digest. But change is coming.

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