LEWISTON, Maine — Bjorn Rebney was of two minds as Thursday evening passed the midnight hour.
He was thrilled with the backdrop Maine’s mixed martial arts community provided his Bellator MMA franchise as it visited the state for the first time with a 10-fight card at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
The organization’s chief executive officer only wished the more than 3,000 fans who witnessed the nationally televised event could have gotten a longer show.
Eight of the fights ended in the first round — three within the first 20 seconds of the match.
“The fans here in Maine were spectacular,” Rebney said. “The only people that suffer when you have [eight] first-round finishes — which I’m still trying to research to see if it’s a record — are the fans in the audience.
“It was a great show for television but man, oh man, it was an awful long series of lulls for the in-house audience,” Rebney continued. “I apologize for that. I think what’s to blame is these guys finish fights. What we always say to the guys is to finish the fights, don’t leave it in the hands of the judges, and man, did everybody take that ridiculously serious tonight from the prelims all the way through the television fights.”
Only the main event went the distance, with veteran Dave Jansen of Corbett, Ore., scoring a unanimous decision over 21-year-old Polish phenom Marcin Held to win Bellator’s $100,000 lightweight tournament final.
“Dave’s fight against Marcin was awesome,” Rebney said. “It had everything you wanted to see — great stand-ups, wicked submissions and submission defense, and back and forth. As an MMA fan I loved it, but you hope to give fans a couple more of those and we typically do.”
The nine bouts that produced winners involved just 29 minutes, 23 seconds of actual fight time, with the 10th match — a welterweight bout between Bangor’s Marcus Davis and Californian Waachim Spiritwolf that was ruled a no contest — also ending in the first round though no official time was announced.
Those 10 fights were spread over nearly 4½ hours of time, the first bout starting at 7:30 p.m. and the last fight ending just before midnight.
Yet the brevity of the bouts was the lone negative of the night for Rebney, who indicated that Bellator would return to Lewiston, perhaps as soon as this fall.
“The primary thing I saw that would make me want to come back was the lack of empty seats,” he said. “It was packed.
“Tonight we gave them super-short fights, which plays well on television but doesn’t translate as beautifully in the arena,” Rebney added. “You saw the crowd’s reaction when [Jansen and Held] got in there, you could see that they wanted to start screaming and loving the event and enjoying the moment. You see those kinds of things, you see the sales we had and the media support and it makes it an easy decision to [ask] how do we plug this area right back into our schedule coming up again in the fall or as soon as we can get back?”
Another principal in the Bellator 93 card who experienced mixed emotions was Davis, the former UFC combatant whose presence was considered by Rebney a major factor in the success of Thursday night’s event despite the fact he fought less than a full round.
Davis was greeted by a roaring crowd when he entered the cage just before the 10 p.m. start of the televised portion of the card that was broadcast live by Spike TV.
Davis then used his quickness and a pair of head kicks to establish early cage control against Spiritwolf in the opening round of their scheduled three-round fight before landing a knee kick to his opponent’s belt line. Spiritwolf sank to the mat and attempted to regroup, but he was unable to recover within a five-minute limit and the fight was halted.
The knee kick was ruled unintentional, and since two rounds of the bout hadn’t been completed it was ruled a no contest.
“To get the welcoming I got when I came into the cage was overwhelming,” said the 39-year-old Davis. “I was swept away. I’ve never heard a crowd like that in the state, ever, not for anything. It moved me, and then I had to get to business. I zeroed in and I knew this kid was not going to touch me. He’s wasn’t going to lay a hand on me, either, and he knew that as soon as this fight started so he looked for a way out.
“It’s upsetting to know that the people of Maine weren’t able to watch me showcase my skills more.”
Davis, who was instrumental in getting mixed martial arts legalized in Maine in 2009, was heartened by the turnout for the Bellator card — a turnout Rebney attributed in part to the presence of the fighter known as “The Irish Hand Grenade.”
“Marcus was a complete champ for us, he promoted the show like crazy and was a total professional,” Rebney said. “He came to fight and looked great in the limited amount of time we got to see him fight. I would love to have him fight on another show for us.”
Davis has his next two fights already scheduled, on the May 18 New England Fights card in Lewiston and in Kansas City in late June on a Team USA vs. Team UK (United Kingdom) promotion.
But he also is under contract for two more Bellator fights and has indicated he’d like to help bring Bellator and Maine together again.
“I have nothing but absolute love for this state,” Davis said, “and I want to keep growing MMA and I want to keep bringing business to this state.”