Bellator Champ Will Brooks Weighs in on Promotion’s Changes, Says Bjorn Rebney Took “More Flack Than he Deserves”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Although Will Brooks laid claim to Bellator’s interim lightweight title in May, a lot has changed since he decisioned Michael Chandler. First the promotion announced it was tweaking its matchmaking process through the creation of a title shot pool, and then more recently, it was confirmed Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney was stepping down.
While Brooks was one of several fighters and observers who had questioned some of Bellator’s practices in the past, the 27 year-old says he was surprised by the far reaching changes.
“When I first got the news that Bjorn was stepping down, and Scott (Coker) was stepping in, I was a little surprised,” Brooks relayed on a recent episode of Full Contact Fighter Radio. “It caught me off guard a little bit because I had just had a meeting with Bjorn, not a few weeks, maybe a week, week and a half before that…”
“It caught me off guard to all of a sudden see him leaving, but at the same time, it’s unfortunate that that happened, but it’s exciting,” Brooks furthered. “This is something that happens in life you know? Things change, people lose jobs, people take jobs, and it just means that there are exciting changes for the organization, the fighters and the fans. I think that’s one thing that we’ve been needing, is change to the format, just changing the organization, and the way it was going, and the direction.”
According to multiple reports, Rebney’s insistence on keeping the tournament format central to Bellator’s matchmaking process, was a key factor in the recent change. Rebney has repeatedly argued that the tourney format helped distinguish Bellator from other promotions, and that further, it removed politics from the matchmaking process. Critics, however, have argued that the tourney format was hindering Bellator’s ability to put together high profile fights. Coker has already stated publicly that he hopes to promote more all-star bouts, and less tournaments, in his role as Bellator President.
“Me personally, I wouldn’t like to see the tournament gone completely,” said Brooks, who became one of Bellator’s top 155’ers by winning a tourney in 2013. “I’m actually a fan of the tournament. The one thing I didn’t like, I just didn’t feel like everyone was getting promoted the right way. There was a little bit missing as far as the way it was ran, how often it was ran, and who was getting their rightful promotion.”
“I think it was a couple of kinks in the whole system that just needed to be changed,” added Brooks, who has gone 6-1 with Bellator to date. “In that respect, with Bjorn actually stepping down from his position with Bellator, I thought that there will just be changes to the format. Prior to him leaving there was actually a change to the tournament format. That was really cool. I was excited about that…all of a sudden there was that extra change with Bjorn stepping down.
While Rebney’s exit was welcomed by critics, others have been quick to point out that the promoter deserves considerable credit for what he achieved. During his tenure, Rebney helped build Bellator into one of the world’s biggest MMA promotions, in an industry which is littered with the remains of come and gone organizations.
“I think a lot of people have given him a lot more flack than he deserves,” Brooks noted about Rebney. “The thing that people don’t understand, at the end of the day, some of these guys that are saying ‘oh, I’m happy that he’s gone’, and blah, blah, blah, here’s the thing, before some of these guys signed with Bellator, what were they doing? They were fighting in regional shows. They were not making very much money, and then they signed with Bellator, they started making a little bit of money then what they were used to making, then they started fighting on television, and different things like that started coming their way….people get a good thing, and then they get that natural ability to be, get a little greedy with it, they want more, and want more…”
“There are decisions that promoters have to make, which may not make everyone happy,” Brooks furthered. “Dana White, I’m sure he makes decisions that the fans aren’t 100% happy with, but that’s the shots those guys are taking you know? They put themselves in that position to take those shots, and I just think that more people need to be more patient with these promoters.”