The ongoing rift between Bellator MMA and former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez penned its latest chapter last month when a federal judge denied Alvarez’s request for an injunction, one which would have allowed the fighter to compete at UFC 159. Since then the case has slowed to a standstill, and although Alvarez continues to rally his cause on social networking sites, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney remains optimistic.
“I just remain hopeful that we can get it resolved,” Rebney stated on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “And I think a good resolution to something like this is always 120-percent preferable to continuing to let there be conflict and let there be a court case.”
The case has thus far proved to be a divisive topic in the court of public opinion. While Alvarez has made no attempt to maintain a low profile, Rebney was frank when asked if to him, a “good resolution” meant Alvarez ultimately re-signed with the promotion that made him a star.
“Yeah, sure,” Rebney answered. “It means a resolution that puts Eddie back into the Bellator cage. You know in any situation like this where there is a conflict, you have to be willing to give.
“You have to be willing to mold. You have to be willing to accept less than you might otherwise have accepted in some circumstances. It’s just the nature of trying to reach resolution instead of putting your foot down hard in the ground and saying, ‘It’s going to be our way or no way.’ That’s just not the way I run a company, and it’s not the way that I think you can effectively approach a conflict if you’re hoping to get it resolved for everyone’s benefit.”
In addition to a starting salary of a $ 70,000/$ 70,000 show/win split, which included $ 5,000 raises per win with a cap at $ 210,000, along with a $ 250,000 signing bonus, Alvarez’s official UFC contract included a myriad of potential earning means revolving around the UFC’s tiered pay-per-view revenue structure. That fact, along with the UFC’s promise to promote Alvarez on a nationally televised FOX card, has become a primary sticking point in Alvarez’s case.
Bellator, along with television partners Viacom, argue that its competing offer matches the UFC’s offer word-for-word, with a pay-per-view rematch against current lightweight champion Michael Chandler already in the works, and Spike existing as a viable replacement for FOX.
“We’ve stated the position pretty clearly in terms of what our beliefs were in terms of the contract, and we expect people to honor those contracts, just like anybody would,” said Rebney. “Just like UFC would or just like the Denver Nuggets would in the NBA. You expect guys to honor the contracts when they sign them.
“Just like there was an expectation on Ed’s part that we would live up to those terms and pay him the money we’ve paid him, and give him the bonuses we gave him, etc. When you sign a contract, you don’t do it so that at some point someone can simply say, ‘I don’t feel like this works for me anymore.’ You sign it, you have good attorneys and managers look over it if you’re a fighter, and you have good attorneys and people look over it if you’re a promoter, and both sides are expected to live up to it. There’s not an expectation that you just have a change of heart and at some point you can just walk away from it. It doesn’t work like that.”
At that point in the conversation, Alvarez, who had been watching the discussion intently while commenting on Twitter, called into The MMA Hour to discuss the matter personally with Rebney, who ultimately declined.
“You know what, I would love to talk to Ed, but I don’t want to talk to Ed in a public forum,” Rebney responded.
“If Eddie wants to sit down, I will fly him into Los Angeles, I will him take out to lunch or dinner. It can just be he and I, and like men we can try to work something out.”
Shortly afterward, Alvarez appeared on the show sans Rebney, and the 29-year-old did not hide his disappointment with his former boss’ decision.
“I just wanted to have a chat and it didn’t go on,” a dismayed Alvarez said.
“Me and him haven’t talked in a while. There’s been a lot of he said, she said, and I just want to clear everything up, you know? I don’t feel like it’s right. He said on air that I have to live up to my end of the bargain. That I have a contract that I’m obligated to, and I feel like I’ve fulfilled that contract through and through. I fought everybody they wanted me to fight, and what I don’t feel like is that they’re fulfilling their end of the contract.”
Becoming increasingly heated, Alvarez went on to explain his discontent with the manner in which Bellator attorneys represented themselves at January’s injunction hearing, most notably focusing on what he perceived to be dishonestly regarding Bellator’s pay-per-view plans.
“The attorneys of Bellator, and these people with Viacom and Spike, they’re telling bold-faced lies to the judge,” Alvarez fumed. “The judges asks if they had a fight lined up for me. ‘Do you have a fight, a pay-per-view fight, lined up for Eddie Alvarez?’ And the guy waited a second, he looked to the side, he figured out whether to he was going to lie or not, and then decided that, ‘Yeah, I’m going to lie. Because if don’t lie, then Eddie Alvarez is going to win this injunction.’ So he tells the judge, ‘We have the fight for him. We have it. We have it, it’s signed, sealed, we have the fight.’ And then Mike Chandler does an interview two days later saying, ‘We never heard anything about a fight with Eddie Alvarez. Anything.’ And I know that he didn’t hear anything. I know from inside sources that they don’t have anything.
“It’s frustrating, man, because they didn’t have to prove to the judge whether they could do a pay-per-view or not. They didn’t have to prove anything during the injunction trial. So I was told I couldn’t fight, because they don’t have to prove anything.
“Whoever’s doing this, things don’t add up,” Alvarez continued with increasing fervor. “I’ll have a conversation with Bjorn on air. I’ll have a conversation with any one of them on air. I have nothing to hide. There’s obviously something to hide. Why can’t we have this conversation?
“What does it say to you guys? What does it say to anyone listening? I’m willing to speak on the subject with anyone anytime, in front of any audience.”
While Alvarez’s frustration regarding the situation was evident, the fighter nonetheless welcomed the idea of re-signing with Bellator. He simply requested that he be paid the amount he believes is justified.
“The whole idea of being a free agent for me was to see what my value was. To see what my value was, and now that I see that, all I want Bellator to do is rightfully match,” an exasperated Alvarez finished, weighing his words.
“I don’t want to sit out, man. I want to fight. I’ve already sat for three months, maybe plus.
“I don’t want to go through a trial. This is stupid. I want to fight. So either step up and make it comparable, or let us go. But don’t lie. Don’t lie to the fans, don’t lie to the media, don’t lie to everyone.”
Ultimately, to the detriment of both sides, this poisonous back-and-forth is likely far from over. Rebney admitted as much when asked if he sees the conflict coming to a resolution anytime soon.
“I have no idea. I couldn’t even begin to tell you,” Rebney said in closing.
“I have good people who I trust, who share my vision for how things can hopefully get resolved, that are working on it. Those people, I’m sure, are going to be in contact with Ed’s people. I know Ed’s people have reached out and spoken with our people. So hopefully they can get it resolved.
“It could be a week, could be a month, could be a year.”
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