Bjorn Rebney Should Focus on Bellator, Not Dana White and the UFC

Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterMay 18, 2014

Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA;   Bellator chief executive officer Bjorn Rebney at the post fight press conference after the Bellator MMA fight night at the Long Beach Arena. Alvarez won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In the old days, back when he was trying to carve a place for his new mixed martial arts promotion, Bjorn Rebney refused to say a bad word about the UFC.

Bellator was the new kid on the block, created mostly from scratch and aimed at those who wanted to see more fights. The events aired on ESPN Deportes and localized Fox Sports Net stations and MTV2. Bellator was not an alternative to the UFC, and it was not trying to compete. Which was a good thing, because the UFC juggernaut was chugging along, growing bigger by the day.

Rebney refused to criticize the UFC or its president, Dana White. White, in return, didn’t say much about Rebney or Bellator.

But that was before Viacom came along and snapped up Rebney’s fighting promotion. White, who is simultaneously at his best and worst when faced with competition, changed his public attitude quickly. His prior relationship with Viacom and Spike, where the UFC began its foray into something resembling the mainstream, made things even more personal. Shots were fired, as they usually are, and Rebney finally quit glossing over the questions that were designed to provoke a response about White and his competition.

Today, Rebney will gladly talk about the UFC. All you have to do is ask.

After Bellator’s first foray onto pay-per-view on Saturday night, Rebney discussed his thoughts on finally reaching the pay-per-view milestone. As per the usual these days, he used it as an opportunity to take a shot at the industry leader, per

I used to watch the UFC years ago, and I used to buy pay-per-views when they were significant and every pay-per-view had big fights on it, but that’s not the case anymore. They do one every three weeks, and some of them, I’m like, ‘I wouldn’t watch that if it was on (FOX Sports 1).

My feeling is you should do pay-per-views when you can do huge depth on the pre-show on Spike and huge depth open the pay-per-view, and we did that tonight. And when we have the opportunity to do it again, whether it’s sometime later this fall to next year – whenever it is – we’ll do it again.

If Rebney ever wonders why some people don’t take him seriously, he needs to look no further than comments like this one.

Yes, the UFC runs too many pay-per-view events. You know it. I know it. We’d all love to see the UFC dial them back a notch. But then, we’d also like to see them run fewer cards on Fight Pass and Fox Sports and Fox and all of the other distribution channels that they’re available on these days. We are oversaturated with UFC events, and I believe that’s why television ratings and pay-per-view purchases are down.

But it’s the rest of Rebney’s statement that I can’t agree with.

“Huge depth on the pre-show on Spike?” Bellator 120’s Spike TV card featured Cheick Kongo fighting a man we’ve never heard of who looked like a refrigerator repairman. I am not sure what Rebney’s definition of “huge depth” is, but Goiti Yamauchi, Mike Richman and Fabricio Guerreiro don’t fit that bill for me, and I suspect that’s the case for most fans who watched the event.

The same thing goes for the pay-per-view. There was some intrigue with Quinton Jackson vs. Muhammed Lawal. Both are stars of some value. But I can’t imagine anyone other than Rebney taking a look at the rest of the card and honestly calling it a stacked event, because it wasn’t. It was a card that would have felt right at home with the rest of Bellator’s events that air on Spike.

Apr 19, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; (Editors note: Caption correction) UFC owner Dana White enjoying the lightweight fight during UFC on FOX 11 at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

I get what Rebney is trying to do. He’s creating friction with White and taking shots at the competition so that this UFC vs. Bellator thing looks like a real battle. That is now synonymous with the sport.

The UFC is the market leader by a wide margin, and unless a catastrophic occurrence decimates the company and drives fans away in droves, it will always be the market leader. Fans should continue to support Bellator and other mixed martial arts promotions but with the understanding that they are there to provide an alternative for the disenfranchised and a supplement for those who somehow can’t get enough UFC programming in their lives.

Instead of focusing his attention on taking shots at the UFC and looking ridiculous in the process, Rebney should focus on making his product better. People will tune in, because they want Bellator to succeed, and because Bellator’s success is good for the industry.

Endless shots at White and the UFC won’t help Bellator’s stature grow, and the sooner Rebney realizes this, the better off he’ll be.