Bjorn Rebney

Each year, we produce and promote 25 nationally and internationally televised mixed martial arts events to more than 125 countries around the world that are seen live here in the U.S. on Spike TV in 100 million homes.

In the complex world of live sports event production, everything that comes before the actual event produces significantly more stress than the event itself. The preparation, structure, timing and elaborate and hyper-specific sequential orchestration place immense stress on every member of my team. 

As we prepare for our 110th event in February, here is a small collection of focal points that should be helpful to you as your next big event draws near:

Motivate the team 

There’s an age-old question in business: Is it better to be loved or feared?

The former produces better results 99 percent of the time. It’s about letting team members at every level know that their contribution, effort and belief in what we’re striving to achieve has legitimate, quantifiable impact on our success.

It takes some extra time, but at every level of your company, let the team know how much their effort and performance means to becoming No. 1. It will deliver a huge ROI.

Over-prepare, over-prepare

In combat sports, a fight can run 25 minutes or 25 seconds, meaning that changes are the norm and not the anomaly. Live combat sports production is analogous to building a house. 

If you start building without a well-conceptualized and organized blueprint, you will fail. It’s that preparation for any eventuality and creating a fail-safe for the fail-safe that ensures that everything stays on track and that our clients (viewers/fans) experience what they perceive to be a flawless event.

Engage everyone in that process. The synchronicity and flawless execution of an event to millions of consumers/viewers is only as strong as the preparation of its weakest link.

Support your talent

Our superstar fighters generate TV ratings, move event tickets, attract advertisers and expand brand growth domestically and internationally. Every business has talented individuals and in every business they are central to the success of the big event. In any business, talent typically became talent due to being unique, extraordinary and special. It’s critical for management to have open, honest and understanding dialogue with talent. Whether it’s a face-to-face, a phone call, a text or an email, effective and honest communication with talent is vital to securing the best possible performance on the largest stage.

Always look back

Success means that the “big event” will be an ongoing and recurring circumstance. So, when the last fight leaves the cage and the production truck goes dark and the “big event” is completed — granted you will be exhausted — it’s the optimal time to catalogue those key execution elements that went wrong. Those execution points that were not optimized will be clearer in your mind and in the mind of your team immediately post-event than they will ever be again.

As much as you would like to immediately join everyone for a post-event celebration, bring your team together, stop and spend 20 minutes or less quickly documenting what went wrong.

Fleshing out that list and solving the issues can wait, but immediately capturing a snapshot of the key elements that must be fixed next time is an invaluable use of you and your team’s time.

Bjorn Rebney is founder, chairman and CEO of Bellator MMA. He has an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in sports business from Ohio University and earned his juris doctorate degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. For more information, visit