Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney — the man who built the MMA promotion from a scrappy underdog on ESPN Deportes to a major player on Spike TV and pay-per-view — has left the building. Viacom officially announced today that Rebney as well as Bellator president and Chief Operating Officer Tim Danaher have left the organization, effective immediately.
As MMAFighting reported last night, it wasn’t exactly an amicable split; Rebney was forced out due to his ongoing conflicts with Viacom regarding the direction of the promotion. [Ed. note: Whoever wanted to turn Bellator into a home of freak-show/throwback MMA and surreal promos, CagePotato is on your side.] Considering that Viacom bought a majority stake in Bellator back in October 2011, the media monolith certainly had the power to kick Bellator’s founder out of his own operation.
But it gets crazier: Rebney’s replacement is expected to be none other than Scott Coker, the former Strikeforce founder and CEO who has kept a very low profile since Zuffa bought his promotion in 2011. From MMAFighting: “Once Coker’s contract and non-compete clause with Zuffa…expired in March, the wheels were in motion to bring him on board.”
An official announcement on Coker’s hiring is expected to be made today or tomorrow, and we’ll update you when it happens. UPDATE: It’s official.
In the meantime, here’s Bjorn Rebney’s official statement on his departure, from the Viacom press release:
“It is with bittersweet emotions that I announce that I am leaving the company I founded,” Rebney stated in a press release issued by Viacom. “I have great pride in having turned my vision into reality, a thriving business with television distribution to over 140 countries around the world, a partnership with one of the world’s largest entertainment giants and wide array of sponsors, partners and strategic allies all over the globe. This has been a wonderful eight plus years of creation, development and success. I will miss the courageous, strong and dedicated fighters I have had the pleasure of promoting, and equally, I will miss the incredibly hard working, remarkable team that has become a family for me over the years.
“Viacom and Tim and I differed in our views of the right strategic direction for Bellator, but Tim and I both wish them well.”
I wonder how Dana White feels about doing battle with his old nemesis/homeboy again. I mean, obviously he doesn’t care, but this could change the dynamic. And that’s a good thing, because two competitive promotions trying to out-do each other is exactly what the sport needs right now.