In a contract dispute that’s grown increasingly heated, Bellator Bjorn Rebney today fired back at Eddie Alvarez, saying he will most certainly see the ex-champ in court unless recent public statements are retracted.
“He needs to stop saying things that aren’t true and aren’t accurate, and at which point if he admits what he said is untrue, then we’ll re-engage with him,” Rebney told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “Until that time, we’ll just see this thing through trial.”
Although initially hesitant to address the situation in public, Rebney said he felt compelled to respond after Alvarez broke his silence, which came months after the parties filed dueling lawsuits over a contract matching dispute.
“For a long period of time, it was a good-faith disagreement between us,” Rebney said. “We as a company, me and Bellator, felt one way about the contract and the matching. He felt another way, and that’s fine. That’s a disagreement, and he filed a lawsuit, and we filed a lawsuit, and we were battling it out. But over the last couple of weeks, he’s made a series of statements about Bellator and about Spike and about Viacom that are just completely and utterly false. I mean, he’s made completely untrue statements.
“I had hoped to be able to just let it play itself out and deal with it in court, and then when the court decisions were made, they would determine who was right and who was wrong, and then it would be over. But the way that it’s occurred over the last couple of weeks, I just felt like it was time to step up and talk about it because it’s not fair for Ed to make completely false statements and not have someone challenge it.”
In several recent interviews, including one given to MMAjunkie.com Radio, Alvarez claimed Bellator had altered the language of an early release from his exclusive negotiating period, which came after the expiration of his previous deal this past October.
Alvarez believed the tournament-based promotion did so to avoid matching an offer from UFC parent Zuffa, which included the possibility of a lightweight title fight, pay-per-view bonus and various other sweeteners.
“I have an enormous problem with somebody spreading completely untrue statements and lying about a situation,” Rebney countered. “That’s where the issue comes from, and there’s a series of things he’s said as of late – literally the last few days, starting with the statements he made on the sixth, when he said point-blank that we had manipulated documents and changed wording and had put him in a horrible position and that we had changed terms in the early release letter versus what was in the contract.
“Nothing was changed. ‘Material terms’ language was never added. It is not part of that final document that was signed. That is just false. That isn’t a misunderstanding. That is not, ‘Oh, I misunderstood what you said,’ or, ‘I misconstrued what you said.’ That is just a completely untrue and false statement. That’s what makes me nuts because when you look at it, all of those documents are with the court.”
Rebney also said the very granting of Alvarez’s early release was, in fact, a favor to the fighter.
“That was not something that we asked for. I did not go to Ed and say, By the way, you know that 90 days that I’ve got to negotiate with you? I want to do something good for Bellator and make it shorter.’ That’s not the way it worked. Ed said, ‘Hey, I’m not going to re-sign with you until I have a chance to see what the UFC is offering. Would you be willing to let me out early from that time period where we’re supposed to exclusively negotiate?’ I said, ‘No problem. I’ve known you for four years. No problem.’ And we put an early release letter in front of his attorneys – not in front of Ed – and the early release letter got signed, and it had the exact same language in it that the contract had. So for him to state otherwise and to imply that we cheated him or lied to him or misrepresented things to him is just wrong and bad.” Following an initial flurry of paperwork stemming from the lawsuits, Alvarez said he met with Bellator and offered the promotion “a steal” of a new contract to bring him back into the fold, but the two sides were “so far away from each other that it actually was a waste of time.”
He added that Viacom, as well as Bellator, was the real culprit for what he believed was as lowball offer, adding, “Viacom and Spike don’t want to pay any money, but they want big fights.”
Rebney remembers the meeting differently. He said he and an attorney representing Bellator reached a deal with Alvarez and his legal rep, and left on good terms. Then, several hours later, he received a call from Alvarez’s rep saying the deal was off.
“Every decision that’s been made on the Eddie Alvarez situation, the matching, the lawsuit, everything, has been made by me as the Chairman and CEO of Bellator,” Rebney said. “Every single decision. And you can kind of conjecture and hypothesize as to who is in Ed’s ear to convince him to talk about Spike and Viacom, but I will say this: It offends me as a fan of this sport. Spike and Viacom are the reason that we’re talking about this sport. Spike and Viacom are the reason that thousands of mixed-martial-artists have had the opportunity to make a great deal of money in this game. Spike and Viacom are the people that have put hundreds of millions of dollars behind promoting and marketing and paying license fees for this content. Were it not for Spike and Viacom, what I consider to be the greatest sport in the world wouldn’t be anywhere in the galaxy of where it is in this country.
“For somebody for whatever reason, depending whoever is in his ear and whoever is prompting him to say these things, to go after them or try to bully them into this situation is just wrong. It’s unethical. It’s attacking people who have done nothing but be good to this game, be good to the fighters in this game, have supported this game when everybody else turned their back on it. It’s disingenuous. It’s unethical. It’s wrong, and it’s false. So if Ed wants to point a finger, the finger should be pointed right here at this office at me.”
Alvarez, who recently began house-shopping in Florida, where his manager, Glenn Robinson, owns the JACO Hybrid Training Center, has said he’ll continue to fight Bellator in court if unable to get a deal he feels is fair.
But given the his tone in relation to the promotion, and the promotion’s anger toward him, nothing less than a court battle seems likely.
For more on Bellator’s upcoming schedule, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the sports.
(Pictured: Bjorn Rebney)
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