Following Saturday night's (Sept. 7, 2013) Bellator event at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney spoke with MMA Fighting to explain a few important pieces of news.
The first was Joe Warren's removal from the card. Warren was expected to make his Bellator return against Nick Kirk, but was removed from the event due to not getting medically cleared by the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation.
Warren was on the receiving end of a brutal knockout at the hands of Pat Curran at Bellator 60 in 2012. He was able to pick up a win later in the year against Owen Evinger at Bellator 80, but it was pretty clear in that bout he was still suffering from the Curran KO.
Per MMA Fighting's Chuck Mendenhall, Warren was removed from the card after getting knocked out in sparring.
MMA Fighting was told from a source close to the commission on Saturday night that Warren was "knocked out while sparring," and that is "100 percent the reason he was pulled from the card." This prompted the Tribe's commissioner Mike Mazzulli to pull the plug on the bout upon seeing the medical report. The source said that he only learned of the situation on Wednesday, meaning the incident happened fairly close to the fight.
Bellator's CEO and founder Bjorn Rebney wouldn't go so far as to say the reason out of respect for Warren, but did say the former featherweight champion could be cleared in a couple of weeks.
"What [Mazzulli] did was, out of respect for Joe and for how long Joe had been prepping in Albuquerque with Greg [Jackson], Mike allowed Joe not just to get bounced out because of the medical results from the initial doctor," Rebney told MMA Fighting. "He allowed Joe to get back and go to a specialist and then see if those tests would clear him at the higher, more involved level of testing. And they almost did.
"What I can tell you is, the specialist who tested him in Denver said, look, if it were my son I wouldn't approve it. But there are circumstances that would cause me to approve it if you can wait three or four weeks and we can do the tests again That'll answer any questions, and we'll be 100 percent. And [Mazzulli] said, if we're not 100 percent we're not allowed to go.
Gym knockouts happen quite often and are almost impossible for a commission to prove. If he was removed for that reason, something had to have shown up on his pre-fight medicals to give the commission pause. And with the Curran KO, it's likely the commission doctor decided to err on the side of caution.
Rebney also attempted to explain the Attila Vegh situation. If you remember, Vegh, the Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion, said in an interview that he was totally fine, and was told by Bellator to sit out so they could do Emanuel Newton and "King" Mo Lawal for the interim Light Heavyweight title.
Bellator then confused things even more by releasing a statement and medical report that didn't actually make any sense for the timeline and supposed injury. Again, MMA Fighting's Mendenhall has the response from Rebney.
"What honest to God happened with Attila Vegh is, Attila came to us and said, 'I'm injured, here's the medical report," Rebney said. "And we went back to him and said, 'great, tell us when you're off the injury because we've got to do the Newton fight.' Then Attila came back to us as we started to schedule the Newton fight, which we wanted to do in July, he said I can't go in July. Because we wanted to do the finalization of the tournament in addition to the Newton fight against Vegh, but couldn't do it.
"Then we waited until mid-August, and said look, we've got to start planning the fall schedule. You've either got to say to us, 'I'm in," and give us a date in October or November. But if you're still ambiguous and can't give us a date we've got to schedule something and then you'll get to fight the winner of the interim fight. And he said, 'I understand it's a business, schedule something because I can't give you a date right now.' So we did.
"Vegh called us and said, 'I was quoted out of context,' and that he said 'I understand it's a business, people want to see that fight, so they'll do it now.' And people construed it to mean he was saying he was bypassed to step aside. I've got a seven-page addendum to his contract that says, I'm injured, here's the medical report, and I understand I'm injured."
While this reasoning still seems dubious at best, it's good to see Rebney at least attempt to make some sense of a confusing situation. Hopefully this will serve as a learning experience that it's better to just give an immediate statement instead of a nonsensical one.