Former Bellator MMA CEO Bjorn Rebney sat down with The MMA Hour for an interview recently. In the interview he discussed his desire and motivation to be an advisor to the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association. The group, which announced its formation last week in a conference call, seeks to promote fighter rights and earn a bigger share of fight revenues from the promotion’s new owner, WME-IMG.
WME-IMG bought the promotion from Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta earlier this year for $4.2 billion. In the interview, Rebney referred to the new conglomerate as bullies.
“WME-IMG and UFC today — that conglomerate — they’re bullies. And it may not be with their hands, but it’s with their money and it’s with their power and it’s with their influence.”
UFC fighters Tim Kennedy, TJ Dillashaw, Donald Cerrone, Cain Velasquez, and Georges St. Pierre, who form the board of the organization, were all a part of the conference call along with Rebney. The group is seeking pension and retirement plans for fighters, full-scale health care for current and retired fighters, among other things. Rebney stressed that he is an adviser to the group and will not make any decisions on their behalf.
In the interview, Rebney said that there are no current provisions like that for fighters:
“There’s nothing in place, and this is the most violent sport on the face of the Earth. The repercussions for a mixed martial artist far surpass those from hockey or football or, for God’s sake, even boxing. Even boxing. And boxing has got a real ugly progressive step for its athletes. And you’ve got nothing in place? No.”
Rebney also addressed the inequality of pay for fighters based on the revenue the company receives for the events. He asserted that the fighters are the ones who made the money, not the ownership of the promotion:
“That didn’t come from Dana or Lorenzo,” Rebney said. “That came on the backs of fighters, who packed the arenas, drove the pay-per-view buy rates, drove the international and domestic television, the sponsorships, the closed circuit, etc., etc. They deserve to get paid what’s fair. And to be able to fight that fight, to be able to be in the middle of that and also to be able to Superman-punch bullies in the back of the head, that’s a very attractive proposition for me just given my personality.”