Eddie Alvarez and Bellator MMA CEO Bjorn Rebney have been locked in a legal battle since Alvarez received a contract from the UFC. Bellator was allowed to attempt to match the contract, which they attempted to do. Now, it is left to the courts to decide whether or not Bellator can adequately match the UFC’s contract. Meanwhile, Alvarez has accused Bellator of many wrong-doings, including sending Alvarez a copy of his original contract with changed language, when he was released.
On the heels of these accusations, Cosmo Alexandre has complained about his lack of pay from Bellator and Zach Makovsky has accused Bellator of cutting his pay before his release. Now, Bjorn Rebney is claiming that there is an imposter calling various fighters, including Leonard Garcia and offering them fights. Funnily enough, Garcia actually refused the fake offer from Rebney because he had heard shady things about Bellator and the way they deal with fighters.
While Bjorn Rebney has attempted to refute the claims made by his former fighters, one has to assume where there is smoke there may be some fire. I understand what Rebney is trying to achieve by battling the UFC for Alvarez. He wants to set a precedent that he will not allow the big boys at Zuffa, LLC. to go in and take all of his top talent when their contracts are up. The only way that Bellator MMA can remain viable to Viacom (who now owns stake in the company) is to retain at least some of it’s top talent. Some fighters like Hector Lombard are going to get away. But after investing a $150,000 signing bonus in Alvarez and trying to build him up as a “Bellator star” I can understand why they are fighting so hard to retain his services.
On the other hand, why do you want to retain a fighter who does not want to fight for the organization? Even if they do end up winning a protracted legal battle with the UFC, it’s clear that Alvarez is going to continue to air his grievances in a public forum. The public relations hit that they have taken and are going to continue to hate may end up being more damaging than potentially losing Alvarez to the UFC. In my mind, I see both sides of the argument, but I can’t imagine that the reputation of Bellator is worth less than Alvarez. At this point, Rebney is locked into his course of action and is going to see the lawsuit through but it seems that he would have been better off allowing Alvarez to take the UFC deal and go on his way. Public opinion is turning against Rebney, which is the main reason he came out to refute Alvarez’s claims in the first place. Unfortunately, many fans now don’t believe Rebney and his reputation will continue to be damaged.
Photo credit: Scott Peterson – MMAWeekly