[Opinion] Bellator Must Stop Fighting Eddie Alvarez's Move To The UFC
UFC President Dana White said that contract negotiations with Lightweight Eddie Alvarez would “get ugly” and clearly they have. Bellator Fighting Championships has sued their onetime star after he did not accept what CEO Bjorn Rebney states was a matching contract offer. While Rebney must feel this is a smart move for his company, it could be a major blow to the future viability of Bellator Fighting Championships.
The news of this dispute hit a fever pitch when free agent Eddie Alvarez appeared on The MMA Hour and explained some of details behind his litigation with Bellator — the main point being that Alvarez and his team do not feel the offer was matched while Bellator says it was a verbatim copy of the UFC’s offer.
“We don’t believe it was matched at all,” Alvarez said on The MMA Hour. “I want to be able to give the details to you guys, but I’m not allowed because we’re in the middle of a pending lawsuit.” Alvarez made an analogy between Bellator and the UFC’s offers. “Dinner isn’t dinner, there’s a huge difference when you’re talking McDonald’s or some fine dining; the two we don’t believe are comparable.”
In Bjorn Rebney’s opinion, his organization lived up to their side of the deal. “I will tell you point blank, no questions asked, we matched it dollar for dollar, term for term and section for section,” Rebney told MMAFighting.com. “To avoid any kind of ambiguity, let me make clear, we took the UFC contract, we took it out of the PDF format, we changed the name ‘UFC’ to ‘Bellator’ and we signed it. We didn’t alter a word, we didn’t alter a phrase, we didn’t alter a section, we didn’t alter a dollar figure.”
While Bellator may have truly matched the UFC’s contract word for word, Alvarez and his team believe a deal with the UFC would be more profitable. This sentiment comes from the UFC’s pay-per-view bonuses, sponsorship opportunities and the additional perks that come with being a member of the premier MMA organization. For Rebney, Alvarez is dealing in hypotheticals. “There is no guaranteed pay-per-view in the UFC offer to Eddie Alvarez,” Rebney stated. “We as Bellator don’t have to match projections. We don’t have to match what could conceptually happen. We have to match guaranteed dollars and what the UFC contractually guaranteed would occur. That is what we are held to.”
Alvarez can negotiate as he pleases after a full year has passed, but that’s a difficult proposition for a fighter in the prime of his career. The problem for Bellator, fair or not, is they are now being perceived as hijacking Eddie Alvarez’s career. “I’d get eaten alive in this world, because what people say means nothing,” said the former Bellator champion. “It means nothing. Being loyal and them sort of things, that kind of goes out the window.”
That is a potentially damning blow to an organization trying to survive in the UFC-dominated MMA world. Bellator’s matching rights in their contracts is no new development as fighters like Tyson Nam and Jonathan Brookins have dealt with the issues they bring before. But the high profile of Alvarez has brought a new level attention to this situation that could result in devastating repercussions for Bellator signing talent in the future. It’s important to note, the UFC is no saint in terms of negotiations either. They played their own game of hardball with Randy Couture at one time when he was looking to get out of his contract and fight Fedor Emelianenko outside of the UFC.