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)

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.

Payout Perspective:

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.

MMA Manager Consents to Final Judgement

August 2, 2010

Josh Gross at Sports Illustrated reported last week that MMA manager Jason Genet has consented to final judgement in his case with the SEC over alleged “pump and dump” common stock maneuvers. Genet represents notable MMA fighters like Shane Carwin, Ben Henderson and Efrain Escudero.

The suit, filed last September in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York, alleged that from at least 2004 through 2006 Genet helped China Energy, a now defunct company, falsely obtain a listing on the Nasdaq National Market System; engage in unregistered distributions of securities; and enter into “secret arrangements to give away China Energy stock to persons who agreed to purchase China Energy stock in the market, and thereby created the false and misleading impression of active trading and interest in China Energy.”

 

Per the terms of the final judgment, Genet neither admitted nor denied the allegations. However he is required to pay a civil penalty of $130,000, disgorgement in the amount of $1.7 million (representing profits gained as a result of the conduct alleged in the complaint), plus interest to the tune of $697,745.57. Genet was also barred from participating in any offering of a penny stock for a period of five years.

Payout Perspective:

The “Pump and Dump” manipulation takes place when an individual or group of individuals distribute false or misleading information to make a stock appear more valuable (pump) than it truly is. Then once the stock price appreciates those responsible for the bad information immediately sell (dump) their shares on the market to claim their premium. Typically when all these new shares hit the market, supply outstrips demand and the stock price falls back down again.

Genet refuses to admit to any guilt, but the fact that he’s consented to pay disgorgement and penalties related to the case implies something very different. In fairness, this happened nearly five years ago – it’s possible that Genet has turned over a new leaf – but it’s still hard not to question whether he’s got the best interest of his fighters at heart after seeing something like this.

I hate to pile on even further, but I definitely wasn’t a big fan of how Shane Carwin’s camp handled the media leading up to UFC 116. Shane acted on poor advice in thinking that he had any sort leverage to demand the media visit and source his website for article information and quotes. He had the reputation of being a quiet, respectful and intelligent fighter, but often came off as disgruntled and sarcastic.

The opportunity to gain a new following, win or lose, was largely squandered; and, he probably didn’t help his standing with the UFC, either. 

If Shane wanted to build his website as a source of information and social networking destination for fight fans, perhaps a better idea would have been to do as much media as possible (under his stated constraints with family, a second job, etc.), but swap the exclusive content for promotion of his website.

The great thing about the MMA community is that the network of blogs and fan sites has become a highly efficient distribution system; new and compelling content spreads like wild fire. Shane could have capitalized on this distribution to maximize the immediate exposure of his website; instead his camp tried to cut corners and send people to a site they’d really never heard of (and largely without a great reason to visit in the first place).

I don’t think you can blame Genet for this entirely, but it’s definitely something that a manager influences.

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