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Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney Explains Contractual Issues

Bjorn RebneyWith a break in the fight schedule, Bellator has found themselves in the spotlight more for their contracts than their stacked Season 7 lineup. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney recently spoke to MMAJunkie to clarify the issues the company has had with former fighters like Roger Hollet and Tyson Nam.

At the heart of the issue has been the “right to match” period that is essentially an industry standard among higher tier MMA promotions. During that period, which is usually a major negotiating point during contract talks, a promotion has the right to match any offer to a fighter they formerly held under contract. Often a promotion will wait to make an offer until that period is over (i.e. Jake Shields, Hector Lombard, and Vinny Magalheas).

Rebney explained the need for such clauses to MMAJunkie:

“What it does is it protects the promoter, in case a guy just doesn’t get an offer, and then you as the promoter can keep making that fighter offers to fight,” he said. “But if he gets it from somebody else just because a certain amount of time elapses doesn’t mean your rights should kind of evaporate. In ours, typically, and most agreements, are about a year. And what it basically does is say we’ll keep making you offers to fight, but if somebody else comes along, we should at least have the opportunity to give you as much as they’re going to give you.”

Rebney continued:

“Our agreements are no different than anybody else’s,” Rebney said. “That’s what we have with Tyson. We have the right to match, and when the offers come in from a competing promoter, if and when they do come in, we’ll look at them; we’ll review the contracts and we’ll determine if we’re going to match. I’ve been a little bit befuddled by the media spin that’s been put on it. It’s not a particularly complicated situation.

“The essence of them is that you’re not asking to restrict a fighter’s ability to fight. You’re not looking to hold somebody back from participating. All you’re asking for is, look, if we give you an incredible opportunity to fight our champion in a non-title fight, or we give you a great opportunity to be on TV, we at least want what most promoters believe is fair – the ability just to match another offer. Not to give you less, but to give you what somebody else is offering, and they’re in every single agreement we have, and I think they’re probably in every single agreement the UFC has, as well.”

Tyson Nam’s management grew frustrated with Bellator after the promotion cancelled a short-notice bout for the fighter and then cancelled the Season 7 bantamweight tournament – a move likely made due to the impending move to Spike TV. Nam’s management also alleges that Bellator only agreed to let Nam fight Eduardo Dantas to make Dantas look good between title defenses. Rebney strongly denies this was that case, stating:

“That was the reason (Bellator matchmaker) Sam (Caplan) suggested him when this opportunity came up,” Rebney said. “He’s like, ‘Here’s a great kid; he deserves a shot. He’s been waiting for an opportunity, and this is a great opportunity for him.’ And I actually questioned Sam about it. I was like, ‘Tyson Nam can fight – are you sure, for this level of fight for a charitable event down in Brazil, is something you want to do?’ And Sam said, ‘Look, this kid has been sitting. He’d like to fight. He’s ready for the fight. Let’s give him the shot.’

“Tyson Nam, vis a vis that win, surely dramatically enhanced his value in the space. With all due respect to Tyson, and he’s a quality fighter, I don’t know that anybody would be having these conversations at this point were it not for that win. So, in typical Bellator fashion, he took a great opportunity that was presented to him, grabbed it by the throat with one big shot, announced himself, and congratulations. As a fighter, that’s what you’re supposed to do with an opportunity like that.”

Nam is currently in flux right now until Bellator decides not to match offers for the promising bantamweight. Another fighter previously in a similar situation, Roger Hollet, will make his UFC debut next week.

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