This article, written by Aaron Richman of the MMA Fight Council, was received by on Wednesday, Nov. 10. Aaron asked us to post it and we have published the article in it’s entirety as it was received.

I have a few thoughts on this whole thing. Basically, to summarize, the rumors state that Bellator is in financial trouble and hanging on by a thread. This article contains an interview with Bellator’s CEO, Bjorn Rebney, in which he denies all the allegations.

As often the case, the “truth” probably lies somewhere in between.

At the very least Aaron should be applauded for doing what apparently many MMA journalists have not done, and that is to get both sides of the story. We could discuss in more depth about the pros and cons and ethical side of publishing rumors … but, another time maybe.

The Truth About Bellator Fighting Championship…Just Might Surprise You!

It doesn’t surprise me, and it shouldn’t surprise you…but it might!

Not only for months, as some have recently reported, but from its inception many people have not given Bellator a chance to “make it”. There are many reasons that have been floated, even from day one, about why it will not, can not last. Of late, these reasons and new reasons have gained momentum, speculating even foretelling Bellator’s imminent demise.

So I guess that must be it then! Stick a fork in Bellator, they’re done!

In fact, for confirmation of this, let’s take a look at the Sunday Morning Rumor Mill written Saturday night, November 6, 2010. Before we do though, I want to make a public declaration that I am a fan of Middle Easy, and generally like what Zeus writes.

• “I really wish I wasn’t the bearer of bad news. Bellator has kept me thoroughly entertained since the summer of 2009. However, things with Bellator are starting to ‘hit the fan’. As of this morning, Bellator does not have a television deal to air their season four tournament scheduled for the beginning of 2011. Negotiations with G4supposedly fell through around the time DirecTV decided to drop the channel from their lineup.

• Each Bellator show costs the organization around $400,000. A fee of $65,000 is paid to NBC (similar to what the IFL did) to broadcast regionally in hopes that NBC will pick up the program for a national time slot. They make roughly around $20,000 from sponsors per show which still leaves them in a substantial hole that gets deeper with every week of Bellator broadcasts.

• The hedge fund investing in Bellator understood they would take a loss when the organization was created, but with season three wrapping up, they are just not happy with the financial results thus far.

• Bjorn Rebney has given away a substantial portion of his share in Bellator away to investors solely for them not to ‘pull the plug’ on Bellator.

• Hence, one of the reasons why Bjorn has been pushing for an Eddie Alvarez vs. Gilbert Melendez fight is to not only garnish interest for Bellator, but if Eddie defeats Gilbert, Bjorn can then use that as leverage for his investors.”

In case this isn’t bad enough news, Gals Guide to MMA, ran the Rumor Mill and this…

“I asked Zeus his opinion on the reliability of these statements, and he seems to think they could be pretty valid.  Hence my depression.  I’ll be honest, I’ve been hearing “Bellator is dying” rumors for a few months now, but the statements were always vague and no one seemed to have any details about what was actually going on.  Now it looks like there may have been some truth to the murmurs after all.

Of course, right now these are still rumors.  There are people in the business who could make up all sorts of stuff to try to sink the promotion.  Or very real troubles could be greatly exaggerated.  Or, Bellator could be dying.   All we can really do is cross our fingers that, even if these are true statements, the promotion is able to pull itself together and continue to give us great fights. “

I want to stop for a moment, and reiterate that all of this has been categorically classified as “rumor” by its author and subsequent commenters. Yes, commenters, as Gals Guide to MMA has 31 comments so far, Bloody Elbow has a Fan Post about this as well, with 76 reader comments, and The Underground has the Rumor posted, which has been viewed 10,944 times so far, with 26 comments. I would call this a pretty popular rumor, unless of course it’s NOT a rumor!

In the interest of full disclosure, I personally had not heard of, or read this rumor anywhere as of Tuesday morning. I did however, receive a text Monday morning from a friend and colleague, which said “Just read Bellator may not be on tv next year. They didn’t get a new contract and they’re hurting for money. Is This true ?” While I was shocked and saddened at the mere thought of this, I was also encouraged by my friend’s belief that I would know the answer. I didn’t.

After a very busy Monday and Tuesday at the MMA Fight Council (MMAFC), by Tuesday afternoon I couldn’t stand the uncertainty any longer. I didn’t think it was right or fair to Bellator and all of us MMA fans to have to wonder. I started with a text, proceeded to multiple emails, and then finally at 6 PM I ended up on the phone with none other than Bjorn Rebney, President and CEO of Bellator Fighting Championship.

Here’s a brief but accurate summary of our conversation:

MMAFC: Have you read, or are you otherwise familiar with this Rumor Mill piece and its allegations?

BR: Yes.

MMAFC: Is all, or any of it true? What can you tell us about it?

BR: It is totally inaccurate. It is patently inaccurate and ridiculous. It is totally and completely meritless, with absolutely no connection to reality. (Note: these descriptions were used throughout our conversation, not spewed one after the other in a single response! I’ve only summarized here.)

MMAFC: OK then! I think that I understand where you’re coming from! To gain some clarification, I’d like to go through the specifics of the piece with you. Let’s start with you not having a television deal after negotiations with G4 fell through. Is that true? Were you negotiating with G4?

BR: No, it is not true. Within a few weeks time, we will be announcing our new long term, muti-year alliance which gives us nationally televised coverage, with no more pre-emptions, and puts us in many more homes than we’ve ever been in before. As for G4, I have a funny story about that. A friend of mine called me after he read this piece, and before I knew of it. He called and told me he was sorry about our deal with G4 falling apart. I asked him if G4 was some kind of airplane. I had never even heard of G4 before! I didn’t know who, or what they were, let alone had a failed negotiation with them! This is why I say that this piece has no connection to reality. Why would anyone write that Bellator lost a TV deal with a channel that I’ve never met with, talked to, or even heard of?

MMAFC: The next section runs through a list of dollar figures, which ends by saying that each show “leaves them in a substantial hole…”. Is this accurate?

BR: Every dollar amount listed is completely inaccurate. Again, patently inaccurate and ridiculous.

MMAFC: Next, we read that the hedge fund is “just not happy with the financial results thus far.” Is this true?

BR: No, it is not. I talk to our investors regularly, and they have frankly never been happier than they are right now. I just had a Sunday breakfast meeting with them, and to say that their overall mood was jovial, would be an understatement. Over the two years that we have been involved with our main investor, a Business Development Corporation (not actually a hedge fund) worth approximately $500 million, we have met all of our projections. That coupled with  our multi-year television alliance, no more pre-emptions, and greatly increase market share has them very happy.

MMAFC: Have you given away a “substantial portion” of your share in Bellator to investors to ensure that they do not “pull the plug” on you?

BR: No, nothing of the sort has taken place. We structured our deal with our primary investor, and that has remained unchanged from then until now. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth, talking about investors pulling the plug. We have solid plans for Seasons 4, 5, and 6, currently in place. In 2011 we are going to have 25 shows, and in 2012 we are going to have 26 shows. With these plans, and our new TV deal, we have never been in a better place than we are now.

MMAFC: Bjorn we then read that you want the Alvarez vs. Melendez fight, in part, so that you can use an Alvarez win “as leverage” for your investors. Is this true?

BR: No, it is not. I wanted to see this fight because I’m first and foremost a fan of MMA! These are two of the best lightweights in the world, if not the two best. What fan wouldn’t want to see this fight? Unfortunately, in this situation it takes four to tango, and only three of us are. It seems that this fight will now have to wait for quite some time to be made, if ever.

MMAFC: Is there anything else that you want the combat sports world to know about Bellator right now?

BR: I would like everyone to stop and remember that Bellator is not even two years old yet! We have accomplished so much in such a short period of time. We are now in the best position we have ever been in! Sam Caplan, our matchmaker has done a phenomenal job of developing world class depth across our weight classes, and putting together great fights. Season 4 will begin in the third week of February, 2011. Everyone will know where to tune in to shortly.

MMAFC: Bjorn, thank you for taking the time to talk with me and dispel all of these rumors. I suspect that we’ll never know who started them, or why, but I for one am glad they are all untrue. Best of luck with Season 4 (and 5, and 6!), and thank you for giving all of us the MMA fights that we love to watch!

3 thoughts on “The truth about Bellator Fighting Championships just might surprise you”
  1. I’m always skeptical. It’s not like Rebney is going to go public stating that his company is failing. I certainly hope the rumors aren’t true, but Elite XC was in the best position it had ever been in right up until the day they boarded up the windows.

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