Some stories never seem to go away in MMA. One of the longest lasting and seemingly most indestructable has been the proxy war of legalized MMA in New York, being fought over by the UFC and the Culinary Workers Union Local 226. Every year the UFC spends a bag full of money lobbying NY politicians to bring MMA to a vote in the state Senate. And every year the Culinary Union riles up local groups to speak out on the dangers of MMA and make the topic just enough of a hot potato that no one is willing to pick up. Interestingly, in this whole rigmarole, one vioce has stayed fairly silent. That would be the voice of the president and public face of the world's second largest MMA organization, Bjorn Rebney... At least, silent until now.
Rebney recently spoke to the Latin Post, with his feelings on New York's continued ban on MMA and the politics behind it:
"I think it's pretty obvious to everyone what it really is, and it's funny that more people don't state it for what it is. The unions have a tremendous amount of power and influence in the state of New York, and the Fertittas have a horrible relationship with unions," says Rebney. "That is obviously the crux of the problem and the motivation between the lack of MMA in the largest media market in the entire United States. And for people to shy away from it or try to position it as something else is just inaccurate. And that's what it is, that's the problem at its core."
And although Rebney was quick to point out that the battle between unions and the Fertittas were "the crux of the problem," he was also quick to make it clear that he wasn't the unions or their battle with Zuffa.
"I've stayed out of it, to a large extent, because I recognize that the issues that are prohibiting the sport here are so much bigger than my perspective or my opinion. I'm the chairman and CEO of the world's second largest MMA organization, largest tournament MMA organization in the world, an organization that is consistently beating the UFC -- Spike versus FS1 -- in the ratings. We're climbing very quickly from that perspective. I could spend 20 hours a day [in New York] and it's not going to move the needle in terms of getting sport into the state of New York," says Rebney.
"Anytime someone calls me to ask me, 'hey can you do this, can you speak on that,' I'd be more than happy to. But I'm smart enough to know that unions are very important to this country. They play too vital of a role in people's lives for them to back off, nor do I think they should back off in their fight that they are putting up against the Fertittas."
If you ever wanted a clear picture of just how deep the battle lines are drawn between Bellator and the UFC, this is a pretty good image right here. The CEO of a major MMA organization is speaking out in favor of a group looking to keep MMA illegal, because that group stands in direct opposition to Zuffa and the UFC. Beyond battle lines, however, Bjorn's strong statement of support for union efforts could and should be looked upon as an opportunity for fighters in the Viacom owned organization. At the very least to bring life to a guild, association, or other collective bargaining effort. Presumably it's an effort that would have Bellator's full support behind it.