Bjorn Rebney has had quite a bit on his plate recently.
With not only the seventh season of Bellator Fighting Championships to prepare for (which starts tomorrow night), but also the debut of the promotion on Spike TV in Jan. 2013, he wasn't expecting to be muddled in a controversy concerning his promotion's contracts and tactics as well.
But that's exactly what happened when it became known that the promotion was using its "matching clause" to prevent fighters it had released like Roger Hollett and Tyson Nam to move forward with their careers either in the UFC or elsewhere.
Check it out:
The really big names seemed to be missing from the season seven Bellator tournament fields, but according to Rebney, not only was that intentional, but he feels it will create an opportunity for a lesser-known fighter to truly rise to the occasion:
"The way I've been looking at it is really this is an opportunity to create the next Pat Curran, the next Mike Chandler, the next Dantas, the next Askren. We've done it in the past. I'm anticipating this season based on the level of fighters we've got competing on MTV 2, we'll see the same kind of thing. We'll walk out of this season and people will be saying, 'My god, that Tiger at 155, he's amazing. He wasn't just a top prospect in the world but now he's 25-0 and a potential worldbeater,' or Koreshkov who's fighting this weekend. The reincarnation of Lyman Good coming back after being out of the game. Who knows who steps up? That's what I want this season to be. I want to come out of this season close to Christmas season and have everybody say, 'Wow, did you see the evolution of that guy?' I'll have created four or five more guys that we can really develop to the next level as we get to Spike."
If you're expecting to see an exciting Bellator title fight in the upcoming seventh season, that's unlikely:
"There may be (title fights) and one thing that we're looking at, I'm always cognizant of health and safety of fighters. With Dantas having suffered the knockout that he suffered, we're looking at that. We had always intended to do the 135 bantamweight world title fight between Dantas and Marcus Galvao during season seven but we're waiting to get a few more reports back on exactly where Dantas is and exactly what the take is on the concussion he suffered when he was knocked out in that fight."
The Dantas knockout was a terrific opportunity to segue to the Tyson Nam situation, considering he was the fighter that knocked "Dudu" out. Afterwards, Bellator enacted their matching clause which has prevented Nam from signing with other promotions despite the fact that Nam was released from Bellator in June after never having fought for the promotion.
Here's what Rebney had to say about the matching clauses:
"There are a lot of different terms in a large scale 40 plus page promotional contract that fans like you and I wouldn't necessarily dive into unless they're brought up in a certain circumstance. Our 'right to match' clause for fighters we've released is one that is standard in our agreements and also standard in UFC agreements.
We literally went through this process exactly step by step duplicates A to Z with King Mo. We were very interested in King Mo. The UFC released him publically, sent out press releases, Dana confirmed that they released him with the media, they put him on UFC.com and about two weeks later we tried to sign King Mo and had to submit all our paperwork, the contract to the UFC attorneys via certified mail and had to wait 14 business days which is over 20 days we had to wait before signing any kind of paperwork to see if the UFC was going to match or not.
It has been and remains a very customary term in contracts. You wouldn't anticipate it to come up but really it protects the promoter who gives a fighter a big opportunity. We gave Tyson a big opportunity to fight Dantas. He wasn't the right fit for our tournament but we retained those rights. We said, 'Well give you this incredible opportunity to fight one of the best guys in the world but if you win, we anticipate we're gonna retain our right to match so if you get another offer. If you get lucky and beat one of the best guys in the world, God bless you but we anticipate we'll have a right to match an offer you get which we thought was fair and believe today is fair.' He won and as per the contract that he signed with us that we would retain the right to match any offer he gets. Not to pay him less but to pay him the same amount."
When it was brought up that the King Mo and Nam situations were different considering that Lawal was under suspension as well as coming off a terrible knee injury and staph infection while Nam was actively looking to fight, Rebney had this to say:
There are a myriad of different circumstances but when you as a promotion actually step up and provide the opportunity, literally say to a fighter, 'Here's an incredible opportunity. There's literally 35 other guys that would like to have it. We're giving it to you. We're proactively reaching out to you to provide it to you.' I think there's and take in those circumstances and I think it's only fair that you as a promotion should have the ability to protect your investment that you've made in a guy like Eduardo Dantas.
I think it goes even further on the promoters side of the discussion when you proactively reach out to a fighter and say, 'We would like to give this opportunity.' This wasn't a situation where a third party reached out to Tyson Nam and said, "Will you fight for us?" and had to contact us to get the rights. It was a situation where our team literally reached out to him and said, 'Here's an incredible opportunity for you...but we have to protect ourselves in the following way.'"
"I'm always a fan of people being able to voice their opinion and I don't think we should ever do anything across the board to stop people from voicing their opinion but when your organization has precisely the same thing, precisely the same contract clause, it seems a bit disingenuous."
Bellator will debut its seventh season tomorrow night from Atlantic City with welterweight tournament quarterfinals. We'll be covering all the action live right here on MMAmania.com.
Has the controversy surrounding the contract disputes with Bellator soured your opinion of the promotion? Have Rebney's comments today helped or hurt their cause?
What's your take, Maniacs?