Bellator MMA founder Bjorn Rebney spent two years developing the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association, which debuted late last month. While the media call that launched the organization included notable fighters Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, Tim Kennedy, TJ Dillashaw, and Donald Cerrone, most of the media has focused on Rebney, who was not a fighter-friendly promoter.
“I thought he was cool,” began Lawal. “But then my manager at the time – back then, Mike Kogan was my manager – he was like, ‘Mo, watch him because there’s some things I’m hearing and seeing that just don’t jive with me. They don’t add up.’ And I was like, alright, cool. I was just watching, and I seen my boy Dan Cramer was supposed to fight in the tournament semi-finals, and he shows up to Ren Nevada – mind you, he took eight weeks off of work – he shows up to Reno, Nevada to fight, and his opponent missed weight by like 15 pounds.
“So he had a backup opponent, right? But Cramer had been training for one opponent specifically, and Cramer was like, ‘look, I don’t care if this guy misses weight. Let me fight him just because I trained for him so I can get paid.’ He’s telling him, ‘let me weigh in and fight this guy so I can at least get paid, then next week I’ll fight the other guy.’ And Bjorn was like, ‘no, you’re not weighing in.’ And you know in MMA, if you ain’t weighing in, you ain’t getting paid. So he didn’t get paid. He worked out and trained for eight weeks and didn’t receive a dime. So he flew out, left his family and everything, flew out to Nevada, which is across the state, across the nation, just to not weigh in and not get paid. That’s garbage.”
Lawal refers to the organization as the “UFC Athletes Association” rather than the MMA Athletes Association, and he offered a compelling defense.
“Because that’s what it is,” he said. “It is the UFC Athletes Association. It ain’t MMAAA, because all I see is UFC fighters and an old dick-rider on that picture – meaning Bjorn. He’s the dick-rider. I don’t see it representing other organizations. But the thing is, I’m not gonna knock them, I just think it’s weird they got Bjorn on the forefront.
“If they were smart they would put him in the background, like making sure things are okay in the background and making sure their agenda gets pushed. Because what it comes down to, is it’s about the fighters. So put the fighters in the forefront, and whoever else in the back. I hope they get their job done and I hope they can accomplish what they want to accomplish, but it just don’t look right when you have someone who has done some shady things in the past towards fighters trying to all of a sudden be like, ‘Hey, I wanna fight for fighters rights, just for this organization.’
“If it was the MMAAA truly, it would have fighters from ONE FC, RFA – or LFA, now’s it’s called the LFA – World Series of Fighting, Bellator, Titan. It’d have fighters from Invicta, fighters from everywhere. But it don’t. It just has fighters from one organization – the UFC.”
“Have him there, but put him in the background. Because this is for the UFC fighters – for the fighters. He’s not involved with the UFC, so put his ass in the background. He’s a consultant. Put his ass in the background and let those faces, the five guys, those five faces be the forefront. Because those five guys bring legitimacy to their cause. But now they put that one dick rider in the picture, it leaves a stain.
“When people saw that picture, people saw the five guys and were like, ‘Oh yeah!’ Then they saw the dick rider on the far left and they were like, ‘Oh, well damn, this is weird.’ It’d be like, say boxers were having a hard time getting bank accounts and they had a union to get bank accounts, and they were like, you know what, we’re gonna bring Don King in on this to help us get bank accounts. And he’s gonna look over our bank accounts. What would the other boxers and people be saying? They’d be like, you wanna have Don King be involved? Because Don King, he’s a great promoter, can get you money, but at the same time, a lot of fighters that have dealt with Don King have had issues with Don King. So if anything, keep him in the back. Keep him in the background.”
Lawal was asked why in his opinion Rebney got involved.
“I don’t know. He’s a smart dude,” said Lawal. “He’s not stupid. Bjorn’s not an idiot. He knows what he’s doing. If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make no sense. So I’m pretty sure somehow, some way he’s weaseling his way into doing something – not weaseling, finessing his way into getting something done in MMA in the future.”