Muhammed Lawal says he wants what's best for the fighters in the MMA Athletes Association (MMAAA), which is why he wanted to call attention to something two weeks ago.
When the MMAAA announced its launch, with the likes of Georges St-Pierre and Tim Kennedy on a conference call, Bjorn Rebney was front and center. The former Bellator owner has drawn criticism for his treatment of fighters in the past and Lawal thought it odd that he was now talking about helping fighters.
During the call, the MMAAA shared a photo online of the five fighters part of the announcement — GSP, Kennedy, Donald Cerrone, T.J. Dillashaw and Cain Velasquez — standing alongside Rebney. So "King Mo" took to Instagram to voice his concern.
Lawal has a history with Rebney, his former promoter with Bellator, and not a good one. "King Mo" has used the phrase "d*ck rider" to describe him before. He's taken now to using an "f" word: finesser.
"I just want them to be successful in what they're trying to accomplish," Lawal said. "But they have a serial finesser in the midst. And the finesser's name is Bjorn Rebney."
Lawal doesn't necessarily have a dog in this fight. The MMAAA only wants to represent UFC athletes. Lawal is in Bellator and has a main event fight coming up against Satoshi Ishii at Bellator 169 on Friday night in Dublin, Ireland. He just wants his peers to watch out for Rebney, who he believes does not have their best interests at heart. Rebney has said his lone role with the MMAAA is as an advisor.
"Good luck to both organizations," Lawal said. "It don't affect me, don't involve me. I ain't in it. i wish them the best. I hope they get what they want to accomplish. It don't affect me, it don't affect Bellator. It don't affect MMA — it affects UFC fighters."
Lawal, 35, said he is unsure what Rebney's motives are, but points to the fact that four of the five fighters on the first board are represented by Creative Artists Agency (CAA) as a red flag. CAA and new UFC owner WME-IMG are longtime rivals in Hollywood and beyond. WME-IMG purchased the UFC for more than $4.2 billion in July.
"I'm like, if they're just there for the UFC, they're talking about money," Lawal said. "Because they see the UFC sale. There was no talk about it a year ago."
Rebney has said that he has been working on organizing this for two years. In his defense, Rebney said on the conference call that during his best year with Bellator he paid fighters 53 percent of revenue, compared to what the MMAAA has estimated is just 8 percent of the UFC's revenue going to athletes.
"I didn't expect people to go, ‘Oh that's awesome, what a great dude,'" Rebney said of criticism on The MMA Hour recently. "I expected people to go ‘Ahh, why is he doing this? That guy was part of the problem. Why is he now part of the solution?' Yeah, I expected that. The good news is the negative vibe has been focused on me, which is exactly where it should be. But the better news is that the reaction has been big."
Lawal (19-5, 1 NC) is not sure what to buy, but he does find it odd that Rebney is posing for photos with the fighters if he's only in a supporting role.
"Hopefully he's legit about it and helps those UFC fighters and their [association] out," Lawal said. "But I just don't know. I really don't care.
"If he's an advisor, they should have him behind the scenes, not taking pictures with the f*cking fighters. Barack Obama had a bunch of advisors, but I don't know who the f*ck they are, because they're not taking pictures with Barack Obama when he's on the podium. The same thing with the presidents before. I can't name you Bill Clinton's advisors or George Bush's advisors, because those mother f*ckers are in the background when the presidents were given speeches."