Bellator’s Summer Series is fast approaching with the first card set for June 19 at Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla.
Ahead of the event, CEO Bjorn Rebney joined the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show on May 1 to discuss Muhammed Lawal, Chael Sonnen’s title shot against Jon Jones and more.
On “King Mo” Lawal, who suffered an upset loss to Emanuel Newton in February and is returning June 19 against Seth Petruzelli: “I think he’ll rebound well. Look, Seth has got a pretty long and storied history of knocking off guys who he wasn’t supposed to knock off in big fights. Mo is a tall order and Mo has been back training since about 24 hours after the spinning back fist loss to Emanuel. I know Mo’s 100-percent focused. I know Mo’s working on every conceivable part of his game. I know he’s just been studying tape like a wild dog and he’s been training like his life depends on it, which it does. This is a huge, important fight for King Mo, and equally it’s a huge, important fight for Seth. … I think Mo is going to be as prepared for this fight as we have ever seen him prepared for any fight in the MMA space. He recognizes the significance. He wasn’t supposed to lose in that tournament, and that spinning back fist from Emanuel and Emanuel’s prep won that fight.”
On both Lawal and Renato “Babalu” Sobral losing in the light heavyweight tournament last season: “If you look at that last tournament, everybody had Mo pegged to fight Babalu in the final. That’s the way the brackets were setup was Mo was going to fight Babalu. Welcome to the world of Mikhail Zayats and Emanuel Newton. Suddenly you had a final between two guys nobody had ever heard of but can fight at a wicked level at 205. So both of these guys have got a huge amount to prove. Both of these guys never anticipated that they were going to get bounced out of that tournament when they did.”
On whether Lawal took Newton lightly: “I just think he got caught right on the button with a spinning back fist that nobody saw coming. I don’t think Emanuel planned to throw it until he turned and saw the opening. I just think he got caught. Look, it can happen to anybody, but do I think we’ll see it again anytime soon? No, I don’t. I don’t think he was ill prepared. He was in incredible shape. … I just think he got caught by a really good, really talented fighter.”
On Lawal-Babalu not happening after they weren’t matched against each other immediately and both lost: “You know what it breeds, it breeds honesty. It breeds real sports competition. It breeds legitimate sports competition. Yeah, you could have very easily just stepped up and gone, ‘You know what, we’ll make Babalu versus Mo.’ Last weekend we saw a fight that was exactly like that [Jones vs. Sonnen at UFC 159]. You just make the fight for the sake of the fact that there’s recognizable names and one of the guys has got the ability to create a lot of media [attention], but you come off two losses back to back at 185 and then you get a shot at the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world at a weight class 20 pounds north of 185? I don’t understand the logic in that, and we saw the result. That doesn’t make sense to me. It makes sense to me in the WWE, but it doesn’t make sense to me from a real sport perspective.”
On Sonnen vs. Jones: “Chael Sonnen gets a shot at the title against Jon Jones because of what he could say, not how he could fight. It’s a different situation. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that situation. I don’t fault it. I don’t look at it and go, ‘Whoa, there’s just something inherently wrong and bad about matchmaking and about the way that formula works.’ But it is not sports competition … the way that we understand it in every other sport that we watch. It’s a sports entertainment vehicle. I happen to think that there’s a lot of space and a lot of fan excitement, a lot of fan interest in a different alternative that more closely resembles what real sports is all about.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:33:11).