Rightful Termination? Mitrione publicly fires agent Malki Kawa
October 1, 2010
Donald Trump, Vince McMahon and Matt Mitrione. All three have publicly fired people. In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan at UFC 119, Mitrione fired his agent, Malki Kawa.
Even after he had time to cool off, Mitrione affirmed that the firing was real. In a backstage interview with MMA Fighting, Mitrione further explained the Kawa firing citing the fact that Mitrione would only receive $5,000 from sponsors for his fight against Joey Beltran. In addition, Mitrione was upset with the fact that he did not receive his fight shorts in time and that Kawa disrespected his wife.
Malki Kawa had the opportunity to clear the air on The MMA Hour Monday show to respond to Mitrione’s comments and gave some insight into the agent’s role for a MMA fighter.
Kawa spoke with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour and covered the Mitrione comments. He also gave some insight on his background and business. Some of the highlights:
- Kawa, a former NFL football agent, decided to represent MMA fighters after he realized that it takes a bankroll to compete in the football agent business.
- He picked up Mitrione as a client 4 weeks from UFC 119.
- Kawa indicated that Mitrione’s former sponsor, Hitman Fight Gear, had certain contractual roadblocks with sponsorships which precluded Kawa from negotiating with other sponsors. It sounded like there was an exclusivity clause in Mitrione’s sponsorship contract with Hitman.
- The Hitman buyout caused a delay in the delivery of Mitrione’s fight shorts. According to Kawa, there was an issue in getting the shorts since the warehouse had moved with the buyout.
- Kawa denied disrespecting Mitrione’s wife.
- Kawa keeps financial information about his fighters confidential. Only when a fighter tells him it is fine will Kawa divulge information about a fighter’s pay.
- Kawa indicated that someone already was working sponsorships with Mitrione when he first began to represent him. He stated that Mitrione’s Hitman deal would make him more than the $5,000 he claimed he would receive for the fight. However, Mitrione’s point is that he expected Kawa to get more than $5,000 for his fight.
- Kawa stated that some fighters still owe him money. Apparently, when sponsors pay a fighter, the check goes to the fighter and then the fighter pays Kawa.
- Kawa has yet to be paid from Mitrione for UFC 119.
Kawa appeared on Inside MMA on HD Net and added additional facts:
- Three weeks prior to the fight, Mitrione’s family representative told Kawa that they did not have any other sponsors (aside from Hitman) and asked Kawa for help.
- A lot of the communication occurred through texts. As a result, Matt Mitrione’s wife misconstrued a text sent by Kawa in which she thought Kawa disrespected her.
- Kawa stated that Hitman sponsored shirt and shorts paid Mitrione about $7,500. Kawa negotiated another $5,000 in sponsorship for his shorts. In total, Mitrione received $12,500 in sponsorship in addition to his fight salary and bonus.
- On a preliminary card, the average sponsorship range would be $10-$20K depending on the fighter.
- Kawa referred to a report on Bloody Elbow regarding sponsorship money.
- Kawa said that Mitrione was sick a week before the fight so he could not meet Mitrione in person.
Kawa came off as a well-reasoned person that understood the business and wanted to explain his position. On the MMA Hour, he wished Mitrione the best even after the breakup. For Kawa, it gave him a chance to promote his company and his fighters including up and coming fighter Jon Jones (who appeared on Inside MMA with Kawa). His response to Mitrione’s comments was necessary and the professional “high road.” Kawa had to protect his business and appearing on television with his star client helped elevate his agency.
If you believe the context Kawa provided, there was a miscommunication of expectations between Kawa’s representation and Mitrione. Was it clear to all parties, that the previous Hitman contract would prevent Kawa from seeking sponsors? Did Mitrione identify all of his family representatives and what Kawa could tell them?
Obviously, the agent-client relationship depends on clear communication. Texting is probably not the best way to work with a client, especially a new client relationship like Kawa-Mitrione. It seems like the issues could have been clarified with a telephone conversation.
As it relates to Mitrione’s fight short sponsors, after reviewing his match, it looked as though Mitrione’s most prominent sponsor was local business Fort Wayne Orthopedics. He also had Blowout Cards, Tapout and Argpower as sponsors on his shorts.
Mitrione’s firing of Kawa should not hurt Mitrione’s brand as a fighter. Since his nickname is “Meathead”, the firing goes along with his perception. Perhaps the firing helps feed his reputation as a loose cannon. In the nature of the agent business, I doubt that Mitrione will have problems finding another agent even after this episode.
The Kawa-Mitrione relationship was bound to fail based on the miscommunication on both sides. It appears that Mitrione had certain expectations that were not made clear by Kawa. For his part, Kawa could have spoken to Mitrione or his wife about why they would not be receiving as much money in sponsorship as they had expected. Also, as a matter of client relations, it would have been helpful if Kawa would have shown up to see Mitrione fight. As Cagewriter points out, Kawa was hanging out with Jon Jones the night of UFC 119.