A little over a week ago, Bellator MMA founder Bjorn Rebney announced the debut of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association. Prominent members of the group include Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, Tim Kennedy, TJ Dillashaw, and Donald Cerrone. Goals of the MMAAA include a media campaign to force the UFC into bargaining, with the eventual goal of getting the UFC to accept a union and an anti-trust exemption, like that enoyed by the NFL. Doubts have been raised about the true goals of and role played by Rebney and CAA, the arch rival of new UFC owners WME-IMG.
Four of the fighters are represented by CAA. The fifth, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, recently indicated some reservations about how he was presented at the group’s unveiling.
Attornies for the MMAFA’s anti-trust suit recently sent the MMAAA a Cease and Desist letter.
With his characteristic ability, war hero Tim Kennedy is preparing for a fight on Saturday with Kelvin Gastelum, and simultaneously has emerged as the de facto leader of the fighter group. During a recent interview with Ariel Helwani, Kennedy expressed reservations about the degree to which Rebney has been aggressive.
“The UFC’s been awesome,” began Kennedy. [No issues with the UFC] whatsoever. Strictly professional, on the operations side, on point taking care of me in every thing that I need [and] my team. Even going above and beyond logistically – I had some guys coming in that weren’t official corners, they helped them in transportation, non stop, like a good promotion should.”
“The most humbling thing has been the feedback from the fighters. Everybody here has talked to me. Every single fighter. We’ve got a fight Saturday night. … We’ve just gotta wait a week, and then we’ll move forward, and you’re going to hear a lot more from me, and from Georges, and from Cain, and from TJ after our fights, but we’ve gotta fight first.”
Helwani said that both Cerrone and Dillashaw had expressed that they wish Rebney, described by Kennedy as a “necessary evil,” was less aggressive. Kennedy said that four of the fighters have fights coming up, indicating that they are not able immediately to get their voices heard leaving Rebney by default as the most prominent speaker of the group. But Kennedy vowed that would change.
“The voice of the association is going to be centric to fighters, moving forward, in the very, very near future when we don’t have fights,” said Kennedy. “Right now two of them are in fight camps and [myself and Cerrone] fight this week. So it’s going to dynamically change.
“Bjorn is kind of adversarial, confrontational, caustic.”
Helwani asked Kennedy if he liked the approach or thought it was productive.
“That’s who he is,” replied Kennedy, before replying blunty, “No, I don’t. This is about professionalism. This is about reshaping the sport. And we have to be above that. We have to be what it needs to be, which is an adult, real, professional sport.”
The interviewer then posed an odd question.
“Do you regret the decision of including him,” said Helwani.
The MMAAA is Bjorn Rebney’s organization. By his own description, he spent two years planning it, and that has abundant corroboration. It was Bjorn Rebney who got the websites, Bjorn Rebney’s wife who sent out the press releases, Bjorn Rebney who approached and was rejected by the anti-trust lawsuit. Tim Kennedy didn’t include Bjorn Rebney, Rebney included Kennedy.
“No man,” replied Kennedy. “We have to have that knowledge, and that perspective, and that intimate understanding of a promoter. We can’t move forward without that. And there’s only a few people on the planet that have that experience. There’s, what, four or five guys, and a gal. Kinda six promoters, ever.”
Kennedy was asked if the group would be announcing more fighter’s names.
“After this Saturday, yes,” he said.
Kennedy is successful in several areas including developing his Sheepdog Response, Hunting Hitler for the History Channel, appearing in the veteran-made, crowd-funded, star-studded zombie apocalypse movie “Range 15,” and otherwise being the consummate badass that he is.
Helwani asked what the chances were that this was Kennedy’s last fight.
“It’s possible,” he said. “There’s only a couple of things that could get me back in the cage.”