Major changes are afoot today at Mixed Martial Arts second biggest promotion Bellator with it’s founder, chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney having parted ways with the company along with COO Tim Danaher.
Spike TV (owned by Viacom who in turn own Bellator) confirmed the departures today and Rebney released a statement soon after.
“It is with bittersweet emotions that I announce that I am leaving the company I founded,” Rebney stated. “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.”
Rebney formed Bellator Fighting Championships in 2008 with a strong focus on a tournament format, guiding the promotion from it’s early days on the ESPN Deportes channel to MTV2 and then in 2011 clinching a deal with Viacom that ultimately saw them installed as Spike TV’s replacement for the UFC when they departed for FOX in 2012.
While no specific reason has been given for his departure, it’s believed that Rebney’s desire to see the promotion continue it’s focus on tournaments may have been at odds with Viacom’s vision.
It appears the Viacom are actively seeking a replacement for Rebney and the rumor mill is pointing strongly to former Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker taking the reigns at the company in the near future.
Like Rebney, Coker built Strikeforce into a major MMA organization that was second only to the UFC before ultimately selling to them in 2011. Coker took on a role within the UFC afterwards, but was rarely seen and left after completing his contract.
Coker is a respected figure with a proven track record – Strikeforce under his guidance were the UFC’s most meaningful competitor since PRIDE – but if he does become Bellator’s new CEO then the big question would be whether he would be given enough freedom to really make his mark, or if he would just become a familiar face in front of the camera while Viacom continue to pull the strings from behind the scenes.