Is there a need for MMA managers?

February 13, 2012

MMA Junkie had a recent article on the managers’ role in representing fighters. With the recent departures of Jose Aldo and Mauricio Rua from their representation, the need for managers has come into question.

The Junkie article looks at long time manager Alex Davis as he discusses the need for a fighter to have good management. He also addresses the question of whether top notch fighters need representation anymore. This comes on the heels of Rua’s statement (which could have been taken out of context) that the UFC does not want its fighters to have managers.

Via MMA Junkie:

“Some people will say that once a fighter reaches a level where he enters the UFC, he doesn’t need management anymore, but usually a manager has worked very hard to get him to that point without ever getting properly rewarded for his efforts,” Davis said. “Only once a fighter is at the top can a manager have a chance at making something in the deal, which is only fair. Not only that, but its not like, ‘Hey, great, now I am in the UFC. My problems are over!’ Far from that. Things get way more complicated.

Davis identifies more responsibility outside of just fighting that the fighter must consider once he makes it in the UFC. There are many tasks that a manager should handle while the fighter concentrates on training.

In addition, the manager may have contacts with sponsors and promoters in helping the younger fighter achieve his goals.

Payout Perspective:

Manager and agent may be two separate jobs or one in the same. Certainly fighters can have both or one individual to handle both duties.

One need only look to Matt Mitrione, Brandon Vera and Alistair Overeem more recently as examples of what happens when you have issues with management. Mitrione publicly fired his manager, Vera lost a year due to a contractual dispute and Overeem is currently in litigation with Golden Glory.

Then there are Georges St. Pierre and Frankie Edgar who left Shari Spencer to go with closer ties to manage their career.

Still, there are many MMA management agencies that take care of their fighters in securing sponsorships and public appearances. This can go a long way in getting fighters the visibility, notoriety and opportunity to increase the value of their own personal brand.

Heavy MMA had a good two part (one and two) series last year on the role of an agent.

The Junkie article points out the reasons that a good manager is necessary in a fighters’ career. Certainly, there are many responsibilities and tasks a manager needs to do in helping fighters prepare for their next fight while making sure they maximize their opportunities.

The question is how much is a manager worth to a fighter? For top tier fighters, do they need a manager? Can the fighter have someone do the same tasks for less, without having to give up a portion of their purse or sponsorship payout. We will see if consolidation of management duties becomes a trend in MMA. There is a definite need for good representation, but at what cost?

10 Responses to “Is there a need for MMA managers?”

  1. Nick on February 13th, 2012 3:58 PM

    This guy sounds like a whiny leach. Maybe the quote was taken out of context, but I’m pretty sure the fighters sacrifice a lot more to make it to the big show than their management. I don’t see how a manager getting 10-15% of a 7 figure deal is “only fair”. It’s not like these managers are investing millions into the fighters. An agent, on the other hand, to handle securing sponsors and other sources of revenue are very valuable to a fIghter and allow them to concentrate on fighting while maximizing earnings.

  2. BrainSmasher on February 13th, 2012 11:45 PM

    There is a reason other athletes have managers/agents. The more the UFC and its fighters gain acceptance the more they will need agents. No atlete likes paying 20% of their income to an agent but in all the major sports they do and there isnt any trend of that changing. For a fighter it comes down to what is your agent doing for you? If he isnt getting you sponsorships and a deal with the UFC you think is correct then you have to balance what he brings to you with what you pay him. I think for the most part they are worth it and will be needed even more in the future when the sport is bigger and lures in a compeitior to the UFC that always pops up every few years. This si when the Agents will earn their money getting you the best deal. With the UFC as the only show in town they agent is limited. But that wont always be the case. Also with the new tv deal the possibility of being a big star is always there. Larger endorsements will be possible, avenues like movies and tv will be more possible. I think it would be beyond stupid for a fighter to take this on himself. If you are one fo these low paid veterans who is just fighting for a check with no real chance to move up and have no marketability. Then yes it might be best to cut your expenses.

    If it becomes a trend for top level guys to drop agents that have gotten them to the top. Agents will start to sign young fighters to very long contracts to assure they are not dumped at the first sign of success.

  3. Nick on February 14th, 2012 7:32 AM

    I think there is definitely a need, but I also don’t feel like it’s worth 20% of 5 7 figure contracts for someone like Ed Soares to negotiate a handful of deals. To me, it seems like it would be more fair if they represented for either a flat fee, or a declining fee schedule as the paydays got larger. Silva, Dos Santos, and Aldo are champions because of their hard work and ridiculous talent. Has Soares helped along the way, definitely, but I don’t see how he has helped to the tune of 300-500k per fight.

  4. Mossman on February 14th, 2012 7:58 AM

    First, I think it’s ridiculous to think that a manager/agent isn’t needed… especially when negotiating with a monopoly like Zuffa and their TEAM of lawyers. However, to say someone receives 20% is insane. Frankly, I would tend to believe that 5-10% is more the average.

    This being said… when the need was presented and over the last half of a decade with the growth of MMA, the UFC, and with it Fighter purses… every slimeball wanna be “sports agent” has crawled out of the woodworks… every non-qualified jamoke wants to get their grubby hands on a piece of the pie.

    As a fighter this would worry me as there is no shortage of douchers and wanna be negotiators that want to take their stab at Zuffa. Also… if I was say one of Soares’ guys, I would be worried that maybe he’s getting deals done just a little too easy… to keep the gravy train flowing and getting in good with Zuffa so that say when it’s time for Anderson’s negotiation, he get’s the extra half a percent that blows the other 5 guys out of the water and he makes his money…

    And I know I have said this before… but there is no and I mean NO reputable “marketing agents” in MMA outside of GSP working with CAA. Anyone with half a brain and a quarter of a rolodex in sponsorship can do a better job than these un-educated scumbag, back-bar losers like Malki Kawa, Alchemy, or VF Elite. All the proof you need for this… is to look at the sponsors they bring in. They will take money from anyone, and wouldn’t know how to market their fighter or “build a fighter’s brand” to save their life…

  5. Nick on February 14th, 2012 9:00 AM

    I think you pretty much summed it up Mossman.

  6. TOHO red on February 14th, 2012 11:04 AM

    Let’s be honest here, having a manager is an integral part of having a successful career. Of course the big leagues wouldn’t want someone who is has a background in sports business negotiating for the athletes making sure they get top dollar for the work they do. It’s extremely beneficial to negotiate with the athletes directly due to the fact there is a big chance the athlete has no clue about his market value, understanding his likeness rights and being able to distinguish the technical language of the contact he or she is signing.

    It’s much easier to pat someone on the back and make them feel good about just getting to fight in the major leagues without them questioning the overall terms of the contract they are singing. There are too many fighters out there that are extremely to roll with the big dogs that they won’t question what the big dogs are offering thinking they can’t pass up the opportunity. If the UFC is telling us we don’t need a manager then I guess we don’t need a manager, fighters are going to do what ever it takes to appease the powers that be thinking they might miss their chance to get to the big show.

    I remember Joachim Hansen once stating that he had chances to fight here in the U.S. in the big leagues but never came due to fact he found the money inadequate for the level he was already at in japan. I think the UFC makes the mistake of thinking the fighters need them more than they need the fighters. But the bottom line is the fighters are the business and without them they would have no revenue stream!

    At the end of the day a manager is the difference between making $70k to show and $70k to win and making a flat fee of 350,000k per fight along with a $1.50 per buy PPV bonus over X amount of buys. When your at the top would you rather be making $140k in fight money with sponsorship’s worth $15k or would you rather be making roughly in the neighborhood of $1.5 to $2 million after PPV bonus along with around $75k in sponsorship money but giving up 10% to someone who allows you to do nothing but concentrate on training or your up coming fight and not worrying about if you made the correct business choices along with the stress of that huge championship you have? I don’t know about you but to me it’s a not a choice at all.

    The bottom line is the UFC is going to keep it’s best interest at mind and that interest is it’s profit margin not the financial well being of it’s fighters. The best part about all of this is the fact that Dana White used to be management for fighters so he obviously knows a thing or too about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it…

  7. BrainSmasher on February 14th, 2012 3:54 PM

    I agree with all those above. Except i dont think 20% is that bad a deal. A little on the high end but not an injustice thats for sure. It ends up being a lot when a guy makes it. But a fighter only fights a couple times a year. A highly paid fighter likely has a large company behind their agent. Even if you make 1 million in a year the agent only gets 200K to work all year for you and it also has to keep his large company behind him profitable. A guy like GSP shouldnt have a half assed agent. His agent or agency should be highly qualified in laws contracts, negotiating, etc. It wouldnt be right for someone so successful to be working so hard to get GSP millions and they only get peanuts. None that qualified is going to spend a year on someone and only get 30,000 for it. If they do they will get more clients or another job and you wont get the attention you deserve. Also not every fighter makes great money so sometimes these agents are busting their butt for get 10-20% of almost nothing. When a fighter strikes it rich he should take care of everyone who works for him and everyone who made it possible.

    Like Mossman said i would be weary of Soares. When he represents so many UFC fighters and the UFC is putting him in their video game you have to wonder whose interest is he looking out for. UFC/Soares/Fighter. I would be willing to bet some of the fighters are getting shafted to build up good graces for another of his fighters. Maybe one guy takes a pay cut to get another Soares fighter in the UFC. Soares has got so big i can see it really effecting some of his clients. That may not be the case but is curtainly possible.

  8. Mossman on February 15th, 2012 9:07 PM

    BS I didn’t mean to single out Soares. I was using him as an analogy for someone who has a stable of fighters and has multiple negotiations with Zuffa going on at one time… There is something about knowing the other party all to well in negotiation, to grease the wheels for certain agreements to make other ones work out more in your favor.

    Although I can say i’ve crossed paths with Ed and he really is as much of a self-important doucher as he seems on TV. Gee… you’re a genius… you were the first guy to claim to speak portuguese to protect guys who… speak english for the most part… No, no you’re not. You were the original Malki Kawa who saw dollar signs and ran to grab as much land as you could… But, I guess he gets a little props for being smart enough to be a leader and not a follower. Go figure…

  9. Dave on February 17th, 2012 3:41 AM

    The whole manager thing is tough, because yeah, 20% is a serious chunk of money when you are at the top, but when you are at the bottom, it really equals a whole lot of nothing. The concept of loyalty that he was talking about is that when you manage a fighter who is coming up, you lose money on him until he makes the big leagues. Think about what 20% of $2,000 is for getting an unknown fighter booked and how much more difficult it is to get a small-time guy booked onto shows.

    I’ve helped some friends and other fighters get fights before, and if they aren’t big-time it really is just a pain in the ass. There is a ton to worry about, even for smaller shows, especially for international shows, and you are getting paid less than a door greeter at Wal*Mart.

    As for the whole thing about the ‘greasy’ managers who have large stables of fighters — I think that is what you, the fighter, would want. You want a guy that knows how the business works and knows what the top guys are making so you have a little bit more leverage when it comes down to making a contract. On the other hand, if you aren’t the apple of your management’s eye I can see that as being a bad thing and you getting a bum deal.

  10. Bruce on February 18th, 2012 6:55 PM

    The larger the company behind the typical agent, the more they will seek to obtain from the athlete, and the results will still be speculative. Athletes can potentially save a good deal of their prize money and allay much of their anxiety concerning “trustworthiness” issues by retaining a licensed attorney agent.

    Attorneys owe the highest duty of faith and loyalty to their clients, as fiduciaries, and have strict ethical rules as far as providing disclosure and obtaining consent as to information the athlete could need to make a particular decision and for various actions an attorney may take on behalf oh his client.

    The athlete will still pay for legal representation of course if they go the traditional route, i.e. pay the agent and the attorney separately, but the athlete has no way of ascertaining that lawyer’s competence or awareness of the athlete’s personal motivations to best protect them.

    This business is not very complicated; there is little statutory regulation, and even less case law precedent, it is mostly contracts and negotiations, so the job can be done by very few people. There is no reason to have a company with a stable of fighters behind an athlete, taking a huge chunk of change out of his/her pocket when all he/she needs to be successful is a single competent, trustworthy, and tough, legal professional to represent his/her interests first, and not the company’s. Oh and the fighter certainly will need a lot of skill as well.

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