Bellator’s Summer Series comes to a close Saturday in Uncasville, Conn.
Marlon Sandro will be taking on Pat Curran in the featherweight tournament final, and the event also features Bellator’s heavyweight champion, Cole Konrad, in a non-title bout as well as former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez making his promotional debut.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney stopped by “The Savage Dog Show” to discuss the event and what’s coming up for his company:
Bjorn Rebney on Ricco Rodriguez, who debuts in Bellator on Saturday against Seth Petruzelli: “He’s riding a 12-fight winning streak, and this is kind of an elevation in the level of fighter that he’s going to go up against. That should be a very interesting fight. We forget because Ricco’s been around so long -- you think of him in terms of [beating] Randy [Couture] and that he should be in his 40s, but he’s still relatively young. He’s back in shape. He’s hugely focused. He’s been training like a crazed dog. … Ricco just kept winning and winning and winning and talking to us. We wanted to make a good fight to really get a solid look.”
On when Joe Warren will defend his featherweight title against Patricio "Pitbull" Freire: “It was really, really unfortunate that Pitbull broke his hand and wasn’t able to have that title fight three weeks ago. What we’re looking at right now is, the moment Pitbull is healed and once Joe is through the bantamweight tournament -- of course, Joe could be out in the first round or Joe could win it. If Joe wins it, then Pitbull versus Warren for the featherweight title will have to happen around the January-February timeframe. If Joe gets eliminated, which given the depth of this 135-pound tournament … is not beyond the scope of reality, then you can do Pitbull-Warren earlier. It just depends on how quickly Pitbull heals and is able to take that fight.”
On how often Warren could be fighting if he progresses in the bantamweight tournament: “If he could fight every single week, he would. He’s a wrestler and he’s competed at the highest level. His body and his mind are conditioned to fight all the time. … If Warren wins 135, then he could fight Zach Makovsky for the 135 title. Warren could be fighting literally seven times in 2012 for Bellator on MTV2. He could be crazy busy.”
On whether Joe Soto, who lost an Aug. 5 tune-up fight against Eddie Yagin, will still compete in the Season Five bantamweight tournament: “It’s surely something that we’ve been giving a lot of consideration. We’ve been talking to his management. To say that Joe Soto hit a hiccup is an understatement. I mean, that was a very, very unfortunate night for Joe. He got caught early. He didn’t react to getting caught early. He got stuck in a guillotine quick. It all ended very fast and very dominantly. We’re probably going to be making a decision on that in the next four or five days.
“… But there’s a distinct possibility that Joe may be out of the tournament. That final, final decision hasn’t been made yet. I have a soft spot in my heart for Joe Soto. He was the first champion we ever crowned. … He’s just a good kid. He’s been through an awful lot. He’s had a very, very tough run over the last year and a half.”
On the changing MMA landscape and how it affects Bellator: “It’s gotten smaller. That surely works to Bellator’s advantage. I don’t know if that works to the sport’s advantage as a whole in terms of the development of world-class talent, both domestically and internationally, but it sure has been a good situation for us as a company.”
On Bellator’s model: “You’ve got to stay true to who you are. I think you’ve also got to have a business model in place that you stay true to, that differentiates you. We are a different format. We are a different structure of competition. We are a different television program than the UFC. We are a different live event. We’re based on objectivity and fighters controlling their own destiny and competing in a tournament.
“… It’s all been about real sports to us. That point of difference put into a structure over 12 weeks that makes for good television is absolutely a huge point of difference for us. I think it’s something that’s ultimately differentiated us really substantially from anybody in the space up to this point. The only thing that I think, ‘Wow, that’s kind of similar to what we’re doing,’ is the early, early years of the UFC when the tournaments took place over one night. That was a far cry from where we are right now in terms of Bellator.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:13:43).