Bjorn Rebney Discusses Bellator Women's DivisionBellator Fighting Championships CEO Bjorn Rebney has big plans for his promotion’s women’s division in the coming year. Speaking exclusively with today, Rebney outlined plans for the upcoming Bellator 115-pound women’s tournament in August, as well as the potential for an additional women’s tournament in 2011.

Rebney also addressed the ongoing problem of mismatches in women’s MMA, which have become commonplace in recent months, and promised that the August tournament would feature world-class fights throughout.

Seven of the eight participants in the 115-pound Season Three tournament have been announced to date, with the eighth and final spot currently vacant due to Elena Reid’s withdrawal due to injury. According to Rebney, there are four candidates – all ranked in the top ten at either 115 or 125 pounds – in line for the final spot including American Top Team standout Jessica Aguilar. Should Aguilar sign on, she will likely be placed on the opposing side of the brackets from fellow tournament participant Angela Magana, whom Aguilar has already faced three times.

The three female fighters who are not part of this year’s tournament will be likely candidates for a second women’s tournament – targeted for 115 pounds – next year, said Rebney. An exact date for the proposed second tournament has not been established, but Rebney’s commitment to the women’s division extends beyond just the initial eight-woman competition later this year. Rebney’s goal is to establish the undisputed number one pound-for-pound female fighter in the world and he plans to do so inside a Bellator cage.

Should a second tournament take place, the same format used in the promotion’s men’s tournaments would be used for the women. The second tournament winner would serve as the first challenger for the title held by the initial tournament champion. A non-title superfight would also be likely to keep the champion busy in the interim. The promotion is focused on bringing in the best female fighters possible to avoid any “filler” fights in any of their women’s tournaments. The impressive lineup for the August competition supports that.

A fan first, Rebney believes that the August tournament will be a success once viewers become aware of the high level of talent possessed by female fighters in the lighter weight classes. While he agrees that the best-known female competitors in North America are presently at 135 and 145 pounds, Rebney feels strongly that the top female fighters in MMA are in the 115- and 125-pound divisions. Separate women’s tournaments at 115 and 125 are a possibility, pending the success of the initial competition.

Fights that could potentially not end up taking place during the August tournament – for example, Megumi Fujii vs Lisa Ward II, Rosi Sexton vs Aisling Daly or Angela Magana vs Lynn Alvarez II – would be strong candidates for the planned second tournament or as non-tournament bouts either in 2010 or 2011. Rebney is keenly aware of the ongoing rivalries in the 115- and 125-pound divisions and wants to put on the best fights for the fans and for the fighters, whether in the August tournament or not.

Unlike other promotions – most notably Strikeforce and the former EliteXC – which have repeatedly had female fighters move up in weight to face top stars such as Gina Carano and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, Bellator has adopted a completely different philosophy when putting together its women’s fights.

With the exception of Lisa Ward, who traditionally competes at 105 pounds but has fought as high as 135, none of the August tournament participants will be moving up in weight. Rebney feels that having fighters cut a bit of weight, rather than trying to hastily put on pounds to move up one or more weight classes, results in fighters competing at their peak physical ability. He believes that all eight of the tournament participants will be in top fighting shape by August.

In addition to the ongoing issue of undersized female fighters moving up in weight, Rebney also touched on the bigger problem of mismatches and lopsided fights in women’s MMA. He believes that hastily-assembled mismatches designed to “showcase” one fighter hurt women’s MMA and he stated that he was tired of seeing women’s bouts where “a Laila Ali-calibre fighter faces a woman from a local Ralph’s store who once took a kickboxing class.” Rebney guaranteed that there will be no such mismatches in the star-studded August tournament.

Lastly, Rebney confirmed the start date and planned structuring of the August tournament. The goal is for each of the eight fighters to be ranked one through eight, with the #1 seed facing #8, #2 facing #7, #3 facing #6 and #4 facing #5 in the opening round. If used, the ranking system will be determined prior to the tournament, giving the fighters time to prepare. At least one first-round matchup will take place at Bellator 24 on August 12th, with the remaining bouts following at Bellator 25 one week later.


Tournament Participants:

Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii (20-0-0)
Rosi Sexton (10-1-0)
Lisa Ward (13-5-0)
Jessica Pene (7-0-0)
Angela Magana (9-4-0)
Aisling “Ais The Bash” Daly (9-0-0)
Lynn “Lights Out” Alvarez (5-1-0)
– (Final spot currently vacant; participant to be announced shortly)


For rankings information, please see the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings.



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