Bjorn Rebney, the face of Bellator MMA as its creator and chairman, is leaving the mixed martial arts promotion effective immediately. Spike TV made the announcement in a news release Wednesday morning, followed up several hours later with the name of his replacement: former Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker
Bellator president and chief operating officer Tim Danaher will also leave Bellator.
"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, a thriving business with television distribution to over 140 countries around the world, a partnership with one of the world's largest entertainment giants and wide array of sponsors, partners and strategic allies all over the globe. This has been a wonderful eight plus years of creation, development and success. I will miss the courageous, strong and dedicated fighters I have had the pleasure of promoting, and equally, I will miss the incredibly hard working, remarkable team that has become a family for me over the years. Viacom and Tim and I differed in our views of the right strategic direction for Bellator, but Tim and I both wish them well," said Bjorn Rebney.
Under Rebney, Bellator went from nothing to having Viacom as its majority shareholder within three years of putting on its first show. Bellator debuted April 3, 2009. Viacom bought Bellator in October 2011. Viacom owns Spike TV, which began broadcasting Bellator fights in 2013. Before that, the promotion was seen on MTV2, another Viacom property. Prior to that, it had been seen on ESPN Deportes and Fox Sports Net.
"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 all the best."
Bellator's next event -- Bellator 122 -- is scheduled for July 25 in Temecula, Calif., with a pair of tournament finals.
"This is a year-round sport," Coker said on a conference call Wednesday. "It shouldn't have a season."
Coker will be the president of Bellator and oversee the day-to-day operations. He founded Strikeforce as a kickboxing organization in the 1980s, then turned it into an MMA promotion in the 2000s before selling it to Zuffa LLC, parent company to the UFC.
"We are excited to have Scott Coker lead us in a new direction," Kay said, "as we evolve the league format from a tournament-based organization to a more traditional model with big fights."