Late in November, the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association announced its formation. Five fighter representatives appeared – Donald Cerrone, T.J. Dillashaw, Tim Kennedy, Georges St-Pierre, and Cain Velasquez. Bellator founder Bjorn Rebney also took the stage; he is a dubious figure to be representing fighter interests.
The group said they sought a 600% increase in fighter salary, among other aims. The route to the raise was described as a strategy that had to remain secret. The groups funding was also described as a secret.
Rebney said he had been planning this for two years, which would place it close to his ouster at the Bellator MMA he founded when he was replaced by the well-liked Scott Coker. The purchase of the site url corresponds with this timeline.
So a ferociously, ferociously competitive man, a brilliant salesman, who founded an MMA promotion and drove it to the #2 spot gets ousted by the new owners. Then according to this narrative, he woke up the next day and realized fighters weren’t treated right in the UFC, and by gosh, he had to do something about it!
Randy Couture has a theory. Rebney also registered mihsportsentertainment.com and mihsportsent.net; it is pure speculation, but some wonder if those are intended for a new MMA promotion.
Four of the five fighters are represented by the same agent at Creative Artists Agency. It quickly came out that CAA was aiding the organization effort. The UFC is now owned by WME-IMG; CAA and WME-IMG have been arch rivals for a generation. If Pepsi suddenly came up with a plan to organize Coke workers so they could make six times more money, it would be credulous to believe their sole goal was a more equitable life for Coke workers.
Rebney eventually revealed that the plan is to pressure the UFC into accepting a union, in exchange for an anti-trust exemption, like that enjoyed by the NFL. That did not sit well with the first fighter organization effort, the MMAFA, which has a massive anti-trust suit aginst the UFC underway. The MMAFA hit the MMAAA with a cease and desist letter.
Tim Kennedy recently retired and is now the president of the MMAAA. He appeared recently on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour and acknowledged that having Rebney appear in public during the announcement was an error.
“It was a mistake during the announcement to have him be a public presence,” said Kennedy, as transcribed by Marc Raimondi for MMA Fighting. “We obviously regretted that. But he will still be somebody that the board members will go to and ask, ‘As a promoter, did you do this?’”
“I need that information and he will be the guy that I am going to ask those questions to. But he has no authority and he has no position within the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association and he has no vote.”
“He’s never been a part in a sense that he has any authority or ability to affect anything. The only people that can vote are board members and the only ones people that can be board members are fighters.
“His role has not changed. But I regret that he was a distraction.”
Kennedy said the board runs the organization and Rebney has no vote. The retired fighter said he had traveled to super teams American Kickboxing Academy and JacksonWink MMA to do recruitment, accompanied by J.P. Arencibia, a retired baseball player and former union rep for the Toronto Blue Jays. ATT is next. New fighters joining the group will apparently be announced soon.
Rebney founded the MMAAA, and its funding remains secret. Kennedy would be wise to have an independent attorney look over the organization’s governing documents, and confirm that Rebney has no power in the group beyond verbal persuasion. Fight promoters have been known to say things to fighters that aren’t entirely true.