Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney sat down with MMAFighting's Mike Chiapetta for an extensive interview, excerpted below.
Mke Chiappetta: One of your other well-known fighters "King Mo" Lawal won his first-round match but was upset by Emanuel Newton in the 2nd round. What are your plans with him going forward?
Bjorn Rebney: We rebuild him in a huge way. We put him back in, get him busy as quickly as humanly possible and we rebuild him. The magic of MMA is that anything can happen on any given day.
MC: Your No. 1 featherweight contender Daniel Straus has had a rough stretch with an injury that knocked him out of the title fight, and then an arrest on drugs and traffic charges. Have you had a chance to speak with him.
BR: I’ve spoken with Daniel twice. I spoke to him the moment he got out and made bail. I know it’s a unique position in this industry to take, but I’ve known Daniel a lot of years. He’s been awesome for the organization. He stepped up and stood up every time we asked. He’s been a total pro and also a very good guy, very responsive and adult. One of the better guys to work with. He worked awfully hard to get the shot at the title. I spoke to him right after he made bail. His words to me were, ‘I was absolutely in the wrong place at the wrong time. I should not have been with the people I was with. I believe very firmly that I’ll be exonerated and be able to move forward with career.’
I’ve got his back. My hope against hope is he does get exonerated and he can resume his career. He was training at American Top Team with some great fighters, broke his hand, and this unfortunate situation came up. I’m sure more of the facts will come clear in next month or so, but I have a lot of belief and trust in Daniel Straus. My hope is it gets cleared up, and he’s able to resume a successful career. If unfortunately he’s not and it doesn't go in that direction, we’ll be there to support him when he gets out.
MC: Have you had any talks with "Rampage Jackson yet?
BR: We bounce. There are always open lines of communication with us and a whole series of fighters. There’s no pending agreement of any kind. There’s no substantive direction.
MC: We both know heavyweight is the toughest division to fill out. Is Josh Barnett on the wish list?
BR: I don't know if I would classify Josh as being on the wish list but he’s sure on the radar... He’s still got gas in the tank but I have no way of knowing if we can end up putting together a deal or not. I just know that anytime there’s a heavyweight that’s a legit top 10, you take a look.
MC: Is there any movement on a possible settlement with Eddie Alvarez?
BR: Not really.
MC: Dana White was quoted as saying the idea of Bellator competing with the UFC is like saying the local high school football team is going up against the NFL. What’s your reaction to that?
BR: I don't mean to sound Pollyanna about it but I don't pay a lot of attention to the comments. I spend 19 hours a day signing great fighters, putting on better shows, producing a great TV product and creating a great live experience. We’re working on three straight sellouts. We’re putting a lot of butts in seats, a lot of people are coming out to fights. That’s where my focus remains. Comments from anyone are like water off a duck’s back. We’ll keep focusing on putting on a spectacular product and great shows, and let the results speak for themselves.
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