LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Bjorn Rebney has watched more mixed martial arts than anyone, so he likes to say. And in the informed judgment of Bellator MMA's CEO and founder, the pair of wars between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler are as good as any he's witnessed.
Rebney, of course, is a promoter, which means he's in the business of upselling fighters, fights, events, and, when the occasion calls for it, anything else. But that doesn't mean he's insincere about Alvarez, Chandler or the epic battles they produced.
"I feel good about it because the fight was so incredible," he said. "When you get a fight at that level, you get that kind of performance out of two guys, you can't help but feel good about it."
In 2011, Chandler won to take the belt. In 2013, Alvarez won to take it back. After eight-plus drama-filled rounds, another two-year wait would feel like purgatory. Of course we want more. We expect more.
Now. And whether or not you agree with Rebney's assessment, I'm betting this is true: you're already pining to see the rubber match.
"Whether it's mixed martial arts or boxing, sometimes guys just gel stylistically," Rebney said. "You watch the fight and you can't believe these guys did that again. Ali-Frazier. Gatti-Ward. We've had a few of them in MMA. These two guys just fit like a glove when they fight each other."
"Ed Alvarez can beat anyone in the world at 155," Rebney said. "In any given moment, whether they're fighting here or fighting in the UFC.
With Michael Chandler it was a razor thin fight. I think no less of Michael Chandler. I think on the next night when those two guys are healthy, Mike could win again."
So will it go down for a third time?
Yes, promised Rebney, who claimed there no impediments that would get in the way of making it real.
"There's nothing in the way of doing No. 3, which would be unbelievable," he said.
The promoter didn't say, in part because both fighters need to heal and rest, and Rebney wasn't sure how long it'll take for that to happen. Contractual. Emotional. Professional. There are, to put it mildly, hurdles, and the legal wrangling between Alvarez, Bellator and the UFC is a story that hasn't reached its conclusion.
"I've always looked at Ed [as one of the best in the world]," Rebney said. "That's why we fought so hard to enforce the contract. I thought Ed was a wickedly talented lightweight and could beat anyone on earth.
I wanted to see him stay in this orgnization. That's what I negotiated for up top. I think Ed's an incredible talent."
Rebney said it would take an act of promotional malpractice to give Alvarez-Chandler III away for free on Spike. He didn't intend to on Saturday, but circumstances made it so. As it turned out, that may have been the best possible outcome if one championship war wasn't enough to get fans to fork over their hard-earned dollars,
"Ed Alvarez can beat anyone in the world at 155," he said. "In any given moment, whether they're fighting here or fighting in the UFC. With Michael Chandler, it was a razor thin fight. I think no less of Michael Chandler. I think on the next night when those two guys are healthy, Mike could win again.
"Could [the third match] be better than this? I don't know what else could happen, but maybe."