Bjorn Rebney out at Bellator MMA

Updated: June 18, 2014, 9:34 PM ET
By Brett Okamoto | ESPN.com

Bellator MMA has parted ways with Bjorn Rebney, its founder, chairman and CEO.

Spike TV officials confirmed Rebney's departure, which is effective immediately, on Wednesday. 

The fight promotion also parted ways with president and COO Tim Danaher. Scott Coker was named president later Wednesday.

The split was caused by differences in "strategic direction," according to Rebney.

"It is with bittersweet emotions that I announce that I am leaving the company I founded," Rebney said in a statement. "I have great pride in having turned my vision into reality."

Added Danaher: "Viacom [parent company of Bellator], Tim and I differed in our views of the right strategic direction for Bellator. I feel very privileged and honored to have been one of the guiding forces for developing Bellator into the largest MMA tournament-based organization in the world."

Rebney, along with investors, founded Bellator MMA in 2008. The promotion's first live event took place April 3, 2009, in Hollywood, Florida. The organization built itself on a tournament format and aired on ESPN Deportes, Fox Sports Net and MTV2 before debuting on Spike TV in 2012.

Viacom purchased a majority stake of the company in 2011.

Bellator has promoted 121 live events to date, including its first pay-per-view offering May 17 in Southaven, Mississippi. A light heavyweight bout between Quinton Jackson and Muhammed Lawal headlined the card.

"I would like to thank Bjorn and Tim on behalf of Spike and Viacom for their dedication and hard work building Bellator from the ground up," Spike TV president Kevin Kay said in a statement. "They worked tirelessly in getting Bellator to where it is today. They were great partners to work with and we wish them the best."

Coker brings more than 25 years of experience in promoting combat sports to Bellator. He founded Strikeforce in 1985 as a kickboxing promotion based in San Jose, California. The company eventually came to promote MMA on the Showtime Network.

Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, purchased Strikeforce in 2011 and eventually shut it down in January 2013. At that time, Coker was still under Zuffa contract.

With Coker at the helm, Bellator will move away from its traditional tournament format. The promotion has relied heavily on the format throughout its existence, but now will turn to a more traditional form of booking fights.

Current Bellator matchmaker Sam Caplan will continue in that role, according to Coker.

"My plan is to evolve the league from the tournament format we've all known on Spike TV to a more traditional format where the fans get to see the fights they want," Coker said. "A more super fight format.

"Will we ever do tournaments again? Sure. We will do tournaments when the situation makes sense."

Coker, who claimed to have been contacted by Viacom only recently in regard to the position, said he would have more information regarding the direction of the company -- scheduling issues, co-promotion opportunities, female divisions -- in coming weeks.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.