If Bellator is going to continue as an organization, it needs to change the way it operates, the president of the company told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday.
Bellator is one of the most popular MMA promotions in the world.
The UFC, the promotion behind many of the top fights, has also been heavily criticized for its treatment of women in its sport.
Bellators CEO Bjorn Rebney told BuzzFeed that the company will not be holding events with “female fighters or promoters, which are common in other promotions, including UFC,” in order to “keep up with the rapid evolution of women’s MMA.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Rebney said.
“I can assure you that Bellator will continue to have the most diverse roster and the most exciting fights.”
Rebney said the company also is “actively exploring the possibility” of holding events featuring a “gender-inclusive roster,” but he declined to provide further details on what those events would look like.
“There are a lot of different things that can happen,” he said.
“[There are] other things that we’re looking at.
But we’ll be able to share those discussions in the near future.”
Rebneys statement came after a recent report in the New York Times revealed that Bellators CEO Lorenzo Fertitta was paid $20 million over the last five years to keep the promotion’s women’s division from growing, including $15 million last year alone.
The women’s promotion has long been plagued by a lack of diversity, and the company’s recent moves to recruit female fighters has been controversial.
In addition to a reported $10 million payout for a former Bellator fighter, Rebney also said the promotion is “open to” bringing in women fighters to compete in its new “Fight of the Year” events, which will take place in March.
“We’re open to any ideas and we’re open for conversations,” Rebneys statement read.
“We’ll be discussing those ideas, but we won’t be holding any events with female fighters or sponsors, which is common in others, including [UFC].”
Bellator has had a long track record of diversity and inclusion.
That’s not changed and will not change.