Pavia sells agency to Paradigm

September 17, 2011

MMA Weekly reports that MMA agent Ken Pavia has sold his agency, MMA Agents, to Paradigm Sports Management. The transaction includes Pavia’s company and his stable of fighters. Pavia is moving on to become Vice President of Business Development at sports agency Takedown Entertainment.

Via MMA Weekly:

Speaking to MMAWeekly.com on Friday, Pavia confirmed that he has sold his company and fight roster to Paradigm Sports Management, but will remain on in a consultant’s role to help the transition for his fighters.

Takedown Entertainment is a publicly traded company that produces and packages MMA shows for broadcast as well as digital release.

Mike Whitman of Sherdog spoke to Pavia about the offer from Paradigm:

“The timing and the opportunity were both right. Takedown represented an opportunity that, in the long run, not only benefits me, but also benefits my clients and the industry,” Pavia said. “The funny thing is that over the last four or five [years], because of my roster and connections, I’ve been offered two or three things a week — whether it’s helping out with a promotion or consulting or advising in some capacity, but it was never the right time or opportunity. With Takedown’s business model, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Pavia indicated that all employees of his company were going to Paradigm or staying with him in his move to Takedown so the transition would not leave anyone without a job.

Payout Perspective:

Its an interesting move within the industry and we will see if any of Pavia’s fighters will seek other representation. The report indicates that Pavia will stay on with MMA Agents for a period of time to ensure a smooth transition so maybe there will be no switching of agents. Based upon the recent MMA Fighting article on the state of MMA sponsorships, the role of the MMA agent can be a difficult task. It appears as difficult as an NFL or NBA agent without the market of sponsors or big financial payoff as the two sports. This could change, ever so slightly, with the UFC-Fox deal. We are not saying that Pavia left for any specific reason, merely pointing out the tough and competitive job it is to be an MMA agent.

The state of MMA sponsorship

September 14, 2011

MMA Fighting had a piece on the state of sponsorships in MMA. It was a revealing look behind sponsoring of fighters in MMA.

Overall the piece depicts the sponsorship game as a huge investment for companies with a tenuous rate of return. For fighters, its a necessity to supplement their fight income as well as keep them financially afloat waiting for their next fight. For agents, its the likely primary goal in helping their clients.

Via MMA Fighting:

If you’re a company looking to sponsor a UFC fighter, the hit to your pocketbook varies depending on everything from the fame and popularity of the fighter you’re doing business with to the location of your logo. Walk-out T-shirts can be among the most expensive items, sometimes edging into the six-figure range, while a small decal on the thigh of his shorts might only run you a couple thousand dollars.

There is also the dreaded sponsorship “fee” or “tax” which the UFC has imposed on sponsors:

…most (sponsors and/or agents reached) put the cost of the tax at about $50,000 per year for the majority of apparel and supplement companies in the UFC, though the fee has been knonw to vary according to the sponsor and the situation…

Then, there is the issue of the return on investment. If a company pays to play, will viewers buy what your selling, let alone know who or what you are. Hayabusa’s Ken Clement told MMA Fighting:

“It’s trackable, but it’s very hard to be objective,” Hayabysa’s Clement said. “It’s the simple question of how many fans watching the UFC saw your logo and recognized it, and of those, who cares? …It can be looked at quantitatively, but there’s a lot of guesswork involved.”

Agent Dean Albrecht breaks down a company’s goals to sponsor a fighter in three categories: advertisement, sponsorship and endorsement. As defined by Albrecht, advertisement is the lowest tier of sponsorship as the relationship between fighter and sponsor is short-lived. The agreement is usually meant strictly for eyes to be on the sponsor’s logo.  These are usually one-time sponsorship deals or done on a flat fee. Sponsorship is more of a commitment between the fighter and sponsor where the sponsor has the fighter wear its logo over a period of time. The idea is to become brand ambassadors for the company. Endorsements are an elite level of sponsorship as the relationship between fighter and sponsor is more exclusive. Its where the fighter will do more than just wear the sponsor’s patch or shirt during fight night. The fighter will exclusively wear the sponsor’s gear in and out of the cage.  They will also make appearances for the sponsor.

Payout Perspective:

An interesting tidbit of the article was the fact that less sponsors are interested in Strikeforce and focus more on the UFC. The fact that Zuffa imposed its tax on Strikeforce seemingly is driving sponsors from the organization. We reported this summer on sponsor Ranger Up as it no longer found it economically feasible to sponsor its Strikeforce fighters. Could this have been a harbinger for the impending demise of the organization?

The article reflects on the work of the agent as they broker the deals with sponsors for their fighters. This is something that is very important for fighters as we all recall the lack of sponsors was the reason Matt Mitrione famously relieved Malki Kawa of his duties.

With the Fox deal, we shall see if the sponsorship industry heats up. While we may see the downturn of certain companies, we could see major mainstream sponsors dipping its toes in sponsorship of fighters, perhaps in the “advertisement” stage of sponsorship. Hopefully, for all involved there could be a time where we see bigger commitments from sponsors.

Junior dos Santos fires agent

July 2, 2011

Junior dos Santos announced via twitter that he has left Ed Soares and has hired new representation. The change came as a surprise to Soares as dos Santos has been on a roll this year.

Soares talked about the separation via Tatame (h/t 5th Round):

“He wants to go a different way. If that’s how he feels, God bless him on his journey.”

“To tell you the truth, he hasn’t said why. I asked him, but he wasn’t much specific,” Soares added.” The only thing he told me was that the decision has been made. What am I supposed to say? If the guy wants to go another direction, who am I to tell him otherwise? I was his manager, not his father.”

Soares also represents many of the fighters under Team Black House including Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva.

Payout Perspective:

An interesting move by dos Santos who is on a roll in the UFC. Not only is he scheduled to challenge for the UFC Heavyweight title this fall, but he was the featured coach on  The Ultimate Fighter. With this much momentum, a change in management seems unusual. It seems unlikely that he was neglected by Soares or that he was not receiving enough sponsorship opportunities. While Soares continues to have a venerable stable, losing dos Santos is a blow. It will be interesting to see how this management change affects his relationship with Team Blackhouse.

We have seen GSP and Frankie Edgar terminate their agent after much success. Here, dos Santos is doing the same. While nothing particular was mentioned for the reason for the change, it will be interesting to see what new management means for dos Santos.

Kawa leaves Authentic Sports Management

May 6, 2011

Only 3 months into the partnership, Malki Kawa, agent for Jon Jones and other UFC stars is leaving Florida-based Authentic Sports Management (ASM). From the press release, it appears that this will be an amicable breakup.

Via Authentic Sports Management:

This move was a mutual decision that both parties amicably agree is in the best interests of the athletes they represent.

“We agree that this decision allows us to provide more focus, deeper resources and only the absolute best management services for the athletes we represent,” said (Glenn) Robinson. “This agreement is mutual and on good terms with the best intentions for everyone.”

“As managers we both agree this is the right move,” said Kawa. “We understand and respect each other and at this point I will go in a different direction. Starting today, I will resume operation of First Round Management through which I will continue my representation of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, Thiago Alves, Carlos Condit, Ben Henderson and other talent.”

Robinson will assume the role of president of Authentic Sports Management, which represents UFC athletes Rashad Evans, Kenny Florian, Anthony Johnson, Jorge Santiago as well as Cosmo Alexandre, Gesias “JZ” Calvacante and the superstar brothers Danillo and Yuri Villefort, and others.

Jen Wenk will maintain public relations representation of Authentic Sports Management and its entire roster of athletes including Rashad Evans through StarPR Las Vegas LLC, and effective today with a new agreement directly with Jon Jones, will continue as the public relations representative for the UFC light heavyweight champion of the world.

As you recall Wenk left the UFC PR department to start her own agency and conduct press for ASM athletes including Jon Jones.

Payout Perspective:

A very short marriage between Kawa and ASM. One would think that with the addition of Wenk, ASM would turn into a super agency for MMA fighters. It would be interesting to see how much planning the two parties did prior to entering into the partnership. Regardless, it seems clear that the parties wanted to make sure that everyone knew that the parting was mutual and amicable. Obviously, the cautious wording of the press release was to ensure their clients that everything was fine and that other agents would not poach them.

Nick Diaz retiring from MMA to box?

April 14, 2011

Inside MMA has the scoop with Diaz manager Cesar Gracie who indicates that a fight with Fernando Vargas is signed. Does this mean that the Strikeforce welterweight champ is retiring from MMA?

In his post-fight interviews from Saturday, Diaz talked about not getting paid enough, overworked, over-trained and possibly being suspended. The release of Strikeforce salaries shows Diaz earned $175,000 (not including sponsors) for his fight with Paul Daley.

Nick Diaz last four payouts in Strikeforce:

vs. Paul Daley – $175,000

vs. “Cyborg” Santos – $150,000

vs. KJ Noons – $50,000

vs. Marius Zaromskis – $100,000

Diaz is earning respectable money for the Strikeforce WW champ. Speaking of underpaid, the latest Strikeforce salary report has Paul Song receiving only $750 for his prelim bout.

The full interview will be on Inside MMA on HD Net this Friday.

Payout Perspective:

This is an unusual career move if the information is true. Only Fernando Vargas benefits from this news as he is the only one that will receive a career boost from the fight. In a post-fight interview, Dana White talked about how Diaz could be a star and that the money will come. It should especially with the new marriage with Zuffa. Still, Diaz seems only happy when he’s miserable.

Shouldn’t Diaz question his management about the direction of his finances? If he is claiming that he’s not seeing the money then maybe he should ask his manager instead of demonizing a straw person (or people) holding him back. It should be the role of the manager or agent to come up with opportunities both inside and out of the ring. Sure, an agent can only go so far to lobby for matches. But, they definitely can help a client with outside opportunities.  Sponsorships, business investments and general finances are well within the realm of a manager. This is what White meant when he stated Diaz “won’t play the game”. If Diaz would be more media savvy, he might be able to get more opportunities. Diaz has the “Stone Cold” persona which could play well with sponsors and advertisers. A lot of people are fans of this Nick Diaz.  He just needs to know when to turn it on and off.

A fight with Vargas diminishes the Diaz brand at a time when its received the most publicity.

UPDATE 4/14/11, 11pm: The Vargas fight fell threw according to MMA Junkie. Diaz has restructured his Strikeforce contract (presumably to allow boxing) and will look to fight Jeff Lacy. Lacy lost to Roy Jones, Jr. in 2009 via TKO. Jones was 40 years old at the time of the fight, not the dominant fighter of the late 1990s.

Could this all be a ploy so that Diaz will get a fight (and more importantly) a payday he wants? Fighting tomato cans doesn’t seem like the proper career path if the end goal is a big payday.

Edgar picks new manager

March 10, 2011

MMA Weekly reports that UFC Lightweight champ Frankie Edgar has signed on with Dominance MMA headed by Ali Abdel-Aziz. Abdel-Aziz and Edgar’s wife will handle The Answer’s management going forward.

In February, Edgar split ways with agent Shari Spencer. Spencer had managed Edgar and Georges St. Pierre. But, GSP split with Spencer in January and Edgar followed suit.

Via MMA Weekly:

Abdel-Aziz manages several other prominent fighters including Renzo Gracie, Ricardo Almeida, Rafael “Sapo” Natal, as well as several Gracie fighters including Igor, Gregor and Rolles Gracie.

Edgar is a mainstay at the main Renzo Gracie academy in New York City, while also training at Ricardo Almeida’s gym in New Jersey.

Payout Perspective:

Obviously, Abdel-Aziz’s relationship with the Renzo Gracie Academy helped him with signing Edgar. Also, having Edgar’s wife included in the management team could have been a factor.  This is similar to GSP’s hiring of new manager Rodolphe Beaulieu, who is a longtime friend of the welterweight champ. It is interesting to see the trend of having family/close friends assist in the business side of managing their career. There are obvious pluses and minuses in having family/friends involved business. We will see how this will play out.

Jones’ agent merges with another sports agency

February 14, 2011

Jon Jones’ agent, Malki Kawa, has joined forces with a sports management agency to form Authentic Sports Management. The agency will have offices in New York, Los Angeles and South Florida.

Via Authentic Sports Management press release:

Entrepreneur and business owner Glenn Robinson and entertainment manager Jon Rubinstein announce the establishment of Authentic Sports Management (ASM) company and the merger of ASM with longtime Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) manager Malki Kawa’s First Round Management. The merger forges a team with vast experience in MMA and sports and entertainment management, endorsements and sponsorships, brand building, marketing and public relations to create a unique full service firm. ASM offers unparalleled representation that will set a new standard in the MMA sport.

Payout Perspective:

The press release indicates that Robinson began a sports agency in late 2010 but it does not indicate whether he had experience in representing mixed martial artists.  Rubinstein owns an entertainment agency with offices in New York and Los Angeles. As we know, Kawahas a stable of MMA stars including Jones. The alliance combines Robinson’s marketing experience, Rubinstein’s mainstream entertainment knowledge and Kawa’s MMA clientele. One might see this as an acquisition of Kawa’s stable so ASM can get its foot in the door of MMA.

With the recent ousting of manager Shari Spencer by GSP and Frankie Edgar, this new merger of fighter services will be interesting. It appears that the move is an attempt to bolster the visibility of MMA fighters with the goal of getting fighters (namely, Jon Jones), mainstream sponsorships. We will see how Rubinstein can leverage his entertainment business knowledge into opportunities for mixed martial artists. Also, how receptive will mainstream sponsors be of fighters. After GSP, maybe Jon Jones (provided he wins in March) can crossover. But, will there be enough appeal for others?

Edgar-Spencer part ways

February 9, 2011

First GSP, now UFC Lightweight Champ Frankie Edgar has split with his agent Shari Spencer. Spencer had represented GSP and Edgar at the beginning of the year, now both have left her agency.

Edgar sent out a press release which stated the following: “Shari did a fantastic job with handling my business affairs however at this juncture in time, we decided to go our separate ways.”

Payout Perspective:

Interesting that GSP and Edgar decided to leave Spencer within a month’s time of each other. Bloody Elbow speculates that money may be the reason for GSP’s departure. It would be easy to believe that money was a reason for Edgar leaving as well.  It was believed that Spencer was charging 20% of the deals that she brought to her clients. This charge seems very high considering agents in pro leagues (NBA, NFL) take on average 3 to 4% of the deals they broker for their clients.

The BE story states that Hollywood talent agency CAA helped facilitate GSP’s mainstream deals with Gatorade and Under Armour. Thus suggesting that Spencer did not get him these deals. Could we see Edgar following GSP’s example and sign on with CAA or another big talent agency and hire a confidant as his manager?

According to MMA Fighting, Spencer is evaluating her options in representing mixed martial artists. The news certainly says something about the state of agent representation in MMA.

GSP splits with agent Shari Spencer

January 20, 2011

Georges St. Pierre has split with his agent since 2007, Shari Spencer. A press release Thursday provided the news of the change in management and described the split as amicable.

According to the press release, “They (GSP-Spencer) felt they had a different vision for the future of Georges’ career and it was best to remain close personally but dissolve their business relationship.” (via MMA Fighting)

St. Pierre will remain at Hollywood talent agency, Creative Arts Agency. But, he will choose a new manager. It is rumored that he will hire a close friend to take over for Spencer.

Spencer, who runs her own company, continues to manage UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar.

Payout Perspective:

In September we commented on GSP’s feature in the NY Times’ Fashion and Style section (definitely the work of Spencer) and wondered if he would become the face for the UFC. The article chronicled GSP’s foray into NY fashion week. An underlying theme in the piece was that GSP seemed uncomfortable with the mainstream New York scene…and perhaps his role as the spokesperson for the UFC. Spencer’s work had helped GSP obtain mainstream sponsors (Gatorade and Under Armour) as well as appearances on ESPN and non-MMA magazines.

Despite the publicity, the speculation is that the mainstream glitz was not his scene. GSP did not like selling himself to Madison Avenue and did not like the time that went into dealing with sponsors. GSP would rather dedicate himself to time in the gym rather than build his brand or become the face for the UFC. Will GSP continue to be a mainstream pitchman? If he does not want to spend time in building his brand through sponsors, his opportunities may be limited and relegated to what CAA can bring him.  (h/t Robert Joyner via twitter)

GSP may be an introvert, or insecure about his place in celebrity, and retreating from being a pitchman may be his wish. Rereading the NY Times article and looking at some of the attempts at comedy GSP has done (see ESPN commercials), he tries, but seems grossly uncomfortable. From an athletic standpoint, concentrating on fighting is probably a good thing. But, from a business perspective, GSP is leaving a lot of opportunities on the table. This may be something that GSP may regret in 10 years.

Bellator ordered to comply with discovery in Zuffa lawsuit

January 16, 2011

Sherdog’s Tracey Lesetar and J.R. Riddell report that Zuffa received a boost in its lawsuit against Bellator Fighting Championships and Ken Pavia of MMA Agents as the United States District Court of Nevada denied Bellator’s protective order to stay discovery until the court decides Bellator’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

The background of the lawsuit was summed up by MMA Fighting last summer:

The suit alleges Bellator and Pavia were conspiring to essentially steal trade secrets from Zuffa through the exchange of confidential documents in e-mails. Pavia, head of the MMA Agents representation firm, handles dozens of MMA fighters, including many under the Zuffa umbrella.

In its motion to stay discovery, Bellator requested the court hold off on the parties from having to conduct written discovery and depositions before the court decides on whether to dismiss Zuffa’s case. Prior to the motion for protective order staying discovery, Bellator took issue with Zuffa filing the lawsuit in Nevada. Bellator claimed that it had no ties with Nevada and, by law, Zuffa could not file a lawsuit in Nevada. Instead, if the lawsuit were to continue, Bellator would want it moved to New Jersey.

Payout Perspective:

The issue being fought over is a basic Civil Procedure question involving jurisdiction. The papers even include a reference to International Shoe (a famous case for those that have attended law school). The court ruling means that Zuffa will agressively pursue Bellator and Pavia with discovery. This will range from written requests to depositions. It is likely that there will be many skirmishes between the parties about the production of documents and other information. The discovery deadline for the parties is set for the end of June.

As Sherdog points out. this case may serve as a model on how non-Nevada promotions and MMA companies will be treated in the future. Basically, can the UFC and other Nevada companies sue promotions in Nevada if those promotions have minimal contacts with the state.

(h/t: MMA Supremacy)

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