I had the amazing opportunity to speak with Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney today. A gracious and friendly visionary, it is becoming pretty clear that Bellator has become a true force to be reckoned with in the international MMA scene. Set forth below are some of the questions and answers I posed, and Mr. Rebney was kind enough to answer:
Why did you choose Chicago as the corporate headquarters for Bellator?
There is no strategic answer. I met a beautiful woman who was based in Chicago and who owns a Chicago-centric business. I was based in Southern California, but we looked at each other and it fit. Given the amount of time I spend traveling, Chicago has worked out quite well.
What do you think of the MMA community in Chicago?
I think it is developing. Obviously, there are strongholds of MMA across the country. They include parts of the Northeast, New Mexico, and southern California, among others. Chicago's scene is much more scattered, but appears to be developing.
How do you think the MMA scene in Chicago can continue to grow and improve?
Pretty simple, more great teachers and great fighters. Chicago needs an abundance of high level guys to train here. When they come, others will come. As more and more fighters and trainers call Chicago home, the MMA scene will grow as well.
What are you most excited about for Bellator 60 in Hammond, IN?
Definitely the strength of the card. Five or six of the fights on the card are main event level fights. There are really some great matchups. For instance, Pat Curran vs. Joe Warren. Right now, Joe Warren is a pitbull pushed into a corner. He is a former champion and he knows he needs to win. And Pat Curran is one of the best 145-pounders in the world. You cannot beat a fight like that. The level of the fights makes this a great event. In addition, this is an opportunity to have an event in a gorgeous venue right in Chicago's backyard.
Do you foresee maintaining Bellator's tournament style?
Absolutely. Matchmaking in fighting is nothing but theatrics. Tournament-style fighting is an answer to the issues of subjectivity and theatrics in MMA. When I was a kid, I used to watch boxing with my dad. A fighter would win and the first thing he would do after a big win is start begging the promoter for a title fight. Even at a young age, I did not understand how you could win, but still have to beg for your next opportunity. What Bellator has created is real sports competition. It is very simple, you win, you move on, you lose, you go home.
Do you foresee any changes to Bellator's format?
More tournaments and more world title fights. We are having five tournaments this season, five next season, and then we will move to six tournaments on Spike TV. I also anticipate that, with more tournaments, we will do away with "superfights" in favor of more legitimate world championship fights.
Where can you get tickets for Bellator 60?
On Ticketmaster or at the door of the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, IN. While the event has sold really well, there are still some tickets available.
I just wanted to offer a quick thanks to Bjorn Rebney for speaking with me and wish him good luck on Bellator 60. Get out there and support our local promotion!
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