Did UFC satisfy its part of deal for Brian Ortega at UFC 226?

July 20, 2018

UPDATED 7/20/18, 10:19pm PT:  According to MMA Junkie report, a financial deal was struck between the UFC and Ortega).  Brian Ortega was not compensated despite being ready for his fight with Max Holloway at UFC 226 underscores anl issue with bout agreements which allows the UFC to provide an opponent in order satisfy its terms of the contract without additional remedy for the athlete.

Ortega spoke about a meeting he had with White in which the challenger was told he would not be compensated for his time promoting his fight with Max Holloway. The lightweight champion had to pull out of the fight just days before his showdown due to concussion-like symptoms.  According to his interview with Brendan Schaub, Ortega was given the option of fighting Jeremy Stephens or Frankie Edgar on short notice for an interim belt.  Ortega had just beat Edgar and he did not want to fight Stephens as his sole goal was to fight for the belt.

Ortega noted that White claimed that the UFC had done its part in offering a substitute and since he did not want the Stephens fight, their duty to fulfill the contract was done.  White, who Ortega claimed was upset during the meeting to discuss fight options, was upset.  The UFC did not offer to cover expenses for his training camp due to Ortega not taking the substitute fight.

In his meeting with White Ortega noted that he had taken fights on short notice including offering to fight Khabib Nurmogomedov when his fight fell through with Holloway this past April.  He also stated that he had spent extra time doing media for UFC 226 in English and Spanish.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that the Bout Agreement allows for the UFC to come up with a fight alternative in the event that the original fight does not go through.  After the UFC has provided a fight, it is up to the athlete to take the fight or decline.  But, if the athlete declines, it’s the UFC’s position that they have fulfilled the terms of the Bout Agreement.  Ortega was adamant that he wanted to fight Holloway for the belt, or the belt itself.  He did not want the interim belt since it was not the same.  From the UFC’s perspective, one might infer that this (fighting for the title) is not written into the contract.  Rather, it’s an alternative to the original fight (or perhaps adding the moniker of being for the ‘interim’ title).  There’s some ambiguity in contract law as to the duty of a party to “cover” in the case of an “anticipatory breach.”  Basically, if it’s clear that the bout could not happen because one of the participants could not fight, the promoter has a right to provide the athlete a substitute.  If the participating athlete declines the substitute, the promoter has fulfilled its obligation of the contract.  In this case, it seems that is the UFC’s position since it gave Ortega an option of Stephens or Edgar.  Of course, the counter to the right to “cover” is whether the substitute is on par with the original Bout Agreement.  Ortega and his camp agreed that any fight outside of Holloway would not be the same and declined the alternatives.  But, it would seem that there would be no real legal remedy for Ortega since the UFC offered him an attempt to remain on the card.  It’s a real sticky situation for Ortega because he has not trained for Stephens or Edgar and a loss would derail his real goal of facing Holloway for the title.  While the UFC may argue that you will eventually fight these challengers, one might assume Ortega would have a whole fight camp to prepare.

Obviously, this hurts Ortega and his trainers and training partners who may be financially affected too since the athlete was not paid, they may not be paid as well.  Unless fighters have the ability to alter Bout Agreements to place clauses which ensures payment regardless of whether fights go forward, this practice will continue.

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