While public spats between the presidents of both Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Bellator have become frequent as of late, World Series of Fighting (WSOF) and its company figurehead, Ray Sefo, have remained quietly in the background, seemingly content with allowing Dana White and Bjorn Rebney to lob verbal jabs at one another.
This took a swift change of direction earlier this week, when Ali Abdel-Aziz -- the proverbial Joe Silva of WSOF -- appeared on Josh Gross' podcast: "Gross Point Blank" to discuss rumors of Ben Askren signing with the Las Vegas-based fight promotion.
"I really feel bad for Ben Askren right now and the things he is going through. I love the sport so much, but sometimes I get disgusted with some of the things people do. You have this guy who is the Bellator champion and then you have this jerk from Bellator, Bjork Rebney or whatever his name is. He talks bad about Ben first saying he is 'boring' and 'one-dimensional' and he is their champion. The reason he is saying that is because he already knows in his mind he is going to release him. I think its disrespectful to Ben, the guy is an Olympian, there doesn't come a better athlete than this, and listen, he is a one-dimensional fighter but his last two fights were so exciting and the guy brings a lot to the table. H talks, has a good personality, stays active on social media and for Bellator to do that I think it was disgusting and an embarrassment for the sport to talk bad about your champion just because you know you're going to release him."
The way Bellator went about parting ways with "Funky" (although all signs pointed to him asking for his release) left a sour taste in the executive vice president's mouth. He believes all of this style of business will eventually lead to the Viacom backed company's demise.
"They did it in such a scummy, dirty, slimy way. The first thing Rebney did was say he is one-dimensional, that he isn't the most exciting, and then they released him on the 20th anniversary of UFC to make themselves relevant, because honestly, the Bellator name is not relevant in the media, that's just the reality of it. They could have been classy about it, they could have said 'good luck,' but they played this little game with UFC and it really hurt the guy [Askren], it didn't hurt Bellator. I think he did a lot for Bellator and I think it's wrong what they did. This is why I don't think they are going to last for long, the time is going to be coming soon for them to leave."
Ali chalks the whole saga up to "Bjorn Rebney playing a game with UFC," a game that started with Rebney offering to release Askren from his contract if UFC gave "Funky" a shot at Georges St-Pierre. In the long run, Ali feels like the release will benefit Askren, something he attributes to the lack of depth on Bellator's roster.
"They don't put on fights anyone cares about except Alvarez vs. Chandler. Who cares about other fights? I don't care about it as an MMA fan and listen, I watched the Alvarez vs. Chandler fight because I knew every other fight on the undercard sucked. Realistically, Bellator doesn't have anyone that can fight Askren. We do, we have a lot more competition than they do."
Abdel-Aziz has dealt with Rebney in mixed martial arts (MMA) previously and what he has seen, he doesn't particularly like.
"Bjorn Rebney is just not a good guy, he's just not. I dealt with him when I managed guys and he is just not a good guy. I think Viacom is a great platform and Spike is amazing. I think people are more excited now to watch Glory than Bellator."
Needless to say, shots fired.