Between preparing to launch a new mixed martial arts reality television show on Spike TV, to selecting venues for 2014, Bjorn Rebney‘s time for small talk is sparse. But the Bellator MMA CEO always seems to have a moment to discuss his favorite topic — how much he loves running the second-largest MMA promotion in the world, and what the future holds in store.
Early Friday morning, just after the Bellator 87 post-fight press conference concluded at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in frigid Mount Pleasant, Michigan, I had the opportunity to speak with Rebney about some of the important topics that have developed in the past few weeks, and the impact they would have going forward for the ever-expanding fight promotion.
You could tell the man was tired by the look in his sleep-deprived eyes. Sitting on stage, and probably still laughing on the inside after having watched lightweight contender Lloyd “Cupcake” Woodard shave his facial hair after losing a stipulation match to David “Caveman” Rickels not more than five minutes prior to our conversation (the clippings were still on the table next to him), the most powerful man in the building finally had a fleeting moment to collect his thoughts while resting for the first time that day…
On Randy Couture Signing with Spike TV/Bellator:
“Randy’s a great addition to the team and is known to fans everywhere. We’re excited for the role he’ll play in helping Bellator reach the next level. I know you and the other media want more info than that, but wait until Tuesday [February 5th] — that’s when we’re holding the big press conference and that’s when you’ll have all the details of what’s going on. That’s when all the questions will be answered.”
On the Controversial Stoppages Earlier in the Night:
“I have an unfair advantage; we’ve got probably the best sound team in all of MMA production. What I’m able to do is, when there’s any kind of controversial stoppage, I can go back into the truck, super slo-mo things and listen to things. I can hear the things the fighters say because our sound design inside the cage is so spectacular. You can literally hear what the fighter’s saying and what the referee is saying — you can hear everything. I think they were great stoppages. I think Dan [Mirgliotta] did an amazing job and when you see it in slow motion, for example on the knee lock, you hear him scream and then see his head go back and ultimately see one tap. Now it’s a super soft tap, but you see it. Inside the truck, in super slo-mo, you can hear the screaming and see his head go back and that’s a verbal submission. According to the Unified Rules, when your head goes back and you scream out — it’s over whether you tap or you don’t tap. But I thought he did a great job.”
On Whether or Not the UFC’s Insistence That The Ultimate Fighter is the “Toughest Tournament in Sports” is an Attempt to Create Brand Confusion Among New Fans:
“[Laughing] No, I don’t think so. What we do is, we let the fighters make their next fight. You win or you go home. That’s a real sport. You won’t see anyone sitting in a chair in some luxurious office somewhere saying, “I think I can sell that fight.” No, we’ve got the tournament format — something that has been around in sports for ages — and when one fighter wins, he gets one step closer to a title shot. That’s it. You have to win to get a championship opportunity. No one here is going to be able to talk their way into a title shot. That’s how a real sport works.”
On the Latest Developments Regarding Eddie Alvarez‘s Contract Situation:
“You know, we won in court last week so that’s a step in the right direction. There’s still a lot that needs to be sorted out. We still have to meet again [in court] to see what the judge says about the rest of the case. You know, Eddie’s been with us for a long time and I’m hopeful that we can come to terms and work something out. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy process, nor do I hope it to be one. I know what we want and I know what Ed wants, it’s just a matter of getting it down on paper and signing on the dotted line. Will it happen? I’m hopeful, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”