The main event

Bjorn Rebmey

Reno has developed a reputation because of its fondness for guys beating the hell out of each other. This Friday night, April 4, a couple of the biggest are going to go head to head. Bjorn Rebmey is the chairman and CEO of Bellator MMA (mixed martial arts), the outfit that's bringing the fights here. Tickets are available at, and the Reno Events Center box office. Tickets are $50-$120.

So you’ve got a big event coming up.

I’ve got an event coming up on Friday. It is part of the large-scale series we do with Spike TV. It’ll be broadcast live on Spike, reaching about 100 million homes here in the U.S., and it will be sent out to 142 countries around the world. The main event on the show is a world title fight for our heavyweight world title where Cheick Kongo is going to challenge Vitaly Minakov, our heavyweight world champion. It’s got three other fights on the main televised part of the show on Spike, and there’s eight other fights on the card that will run on

Do you know how many presold?

I haven’t gotten a read of late, but last I saw we were at about 3,300 presold. But like I said, I just got back into town from last week’s event, but yes, it’s selling really well. But its a big fight. Cheick Kongo is of course a huge name, and Minakov is ranked in the top five in the world. They’re champions, so it’s a big fight, and the heavyweights, you know, always draw a lot of attention, a lot of interest.

How did you get into the running of this sport?

I’ve been a fight fan my entire life—American kid who grew up watching football and basketball, then when mixed martial arts really kind of took hold here in 2005, when Spike TV was the first cable network to actually broadcast mixed martial arts live here in the United States, I just fell in love with the game. I have my MBA and my law degree, and I have been working as an agent for fighters and an agent for football, basketball and baseball players, and I also ran my own fight promotion business, many years ago in partnership with Sugar Ray Leonard, and I was just in love with the sport. I thought it was the coolest, purest form of athletic competition and of combat sports that I’d ever seen. I turned all my attention to it in 2008, built out a business, turned out a business plan, found an investment group on the East Coast that gave me tens of millions of dollars to start the company.

What makes Reno a good place to have big fights?

Reno’s got a great long-standing history as a fight town, and we have been looking to get into the state of Nevada, so of course, if you’re going to be in Nevada, it’s either Reno or Las Vegas, and Las Vegas is kind of owned and operated by the UFC. We thought Reno would be a spectacular place for us in a state that is a mecca for fighting in combat sports. We’ve never done an event in Nevada. We figured we’d start it off with Reno. We’ve got an amazing combination of partnerships with casinos on board to do this event, and the response from the media and in terms of ticket sales has been real strong. It all looks real good. My hope is that this will just be the first of many events we do in Reno.