December 25, 2014
Back in February, Gilbert Melendez re-signed with the UFC after it was initially reported that he had agreed to a deal with Bellator. But, the UFC exercised its “right to match” in Gil’s contract. The move showed a newfound Bellator strategy to become more competitive with the UFC
Melendez became a free agent after his contract with Zuffa ended with his fight against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166. Melendez was given offers from Bellator and the WSOF. It was thought that Bellator had secured the lightweight but the UFC agreed to match the terms of the Bellator deal. Melendez also received a title shot for the lightweight title and became a coach on TUF opposite Anthony Pettis.
Via MMA Fighting:
Per the terms of the agreement, according to several sources, Melendez’s deal guarantees that at least 75 percent of the 31-year-old’s fights will be contested on pay-per-view moving forward. Additionally, income earned from Melendez’s contracted pay-per-view points will kick in at a lower minimum buy rate than for any contract in UFC history, meaning Melendez will still earn pay-per-view point earnings on an event that performs poorly at the box office.
The Gil deal makes the list because it revealed some key points that his representation was able to get on his behalf. This drew the envy, of some fighters. Shortly after Gil’s deal, Nate Diaz went on a twitter rant about his unhappiness with his UFC contract and asked to be released. Gil’s deal was a rare example of fighter leverage and the invocation of the “right to match” clause. We recall the problems occurring with this in the Eddie Alvarez legal battle. Here, there were no problems, and in fact, Gil made out well. Of course, his next fight was a loss to Anthony Pettis at UFC 181. He made a base of $200,000 and should receive PPV points from the PPV buys.
With the recent UFC lawsuit filings in San Jose, new uniform deal, potential new sponsors in the UFC and the rise of Bellator, it will be interesting to see if/when another top free agent comes up, how the UFC deals with the negotiations.
May 22, 2014
ESPN reports that Manny Pacquiao has signed a two year extension with Top Rank Boxing. The deal will go through December 2016 and likely ends talk of a possible Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.
Top Rank Promoter Bob Arum indicated that the financial terms were not disclosed due to a confidentiality agreement. The deal also extends MP Promotions which co-promotes Pacquiao along with Top Rank. Mayweather is halfway through a six fight deal with Showtime.
The new deal apparently closes the door on the biggest fight in boxing that never happened. Let’s face it, the fight everyone wanted to see went away years ago. Pacquiao will be 38 when this contract ends and it would be prudent for him to retire at that point. Mayweather has expressed interest to walk away as well after his Showtime contract is up. While Arum has stated that there still may be a chance for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, its unlikely we would want to see it at the end of their respective careers.
May 19, 2014
The MMA Report reports that Eddie Alvarez’s contract has him specifically fighting Michael Chandler. The apparent clause in the contract would leave Bellator without the opportunity for Alvarez to fight interim champion Will Brooks.
You will recall that Bellator and Alvarez were embroiled in a contentious legal battle which was finally settled. Although terms of the settlement were not revealed to the public, it appears that Alvarez specifically had set his sights on Michael Chandler.
In the post-Bellator 120 press conference, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney stated that Alvarez’s next fight will be on PPV although the issue of Alvarez’s next opponent may be a factor prior to what platform the fight will be shown.
Here we go again with contract issues. It’s hard to comment on a contract without first seeing it but from what we know from The MMA Report’s report it seems like Alvarez and his camp believed that Michael Chandler was the only opponent for Alvarez. One would think to ensure that Alvarez fought the champion of the division, his contract would not specifically name an individual, but just that he would face the champion in the lightweight division. With the Will Brooks upset, Alvarez now is contractually obligated to face Chandler in what would be an entertaining, yet meaningless fight for Bellator’s lightweight division. Of course, Bellator could persuade Alvarez to take on Brooks and unify the titles. Alvarez, in one last shot at the company, could decline the offer and take on Chandler.
The Chandler fight still seems like the one that would draw more PPV buys (assuming it’s on PPV), but the Brooks fight would make more sense since there are now two titleholders at 155 and Bellator would probably want to unify the titles as soon as possible. In the end, Alvarez’s advisers will probably go with the fight that provides the most money for Alvarez.
UPDATE 5/20/14: In accompanying this post, you should also read Will Brooks recent twitter timeline and John Nash’s piece on Bellator contracts on BE. I would suspect that Alvarez’s negotiated settlement of his lawsuit included that his contract with Bellator not have a “Champions” clause which may cause him to continue to stay with the company.
April 4, 2014
Sherdog’s Mike Whitman first reported that the California State Athletic Commission issued its ruling in the arbitration of Ronda Rousey and Fight Tribe Management. The commission ruled that Rousey is released from her fight contract but left the commercial aspect of the contract to the court.
Executive Director of the CSAC, Andy Foster heard the arbitration between the parties last week over the dispute between the UFC women’s bantamweight champion and her manager Darin Harvey. Originally, Harvey had petitioned the Los Angeles Superior Court for the issue regarding the representation agreement between the parties to be decided via arbitration. However Rousey’s legal representatives claimed that the contract should be determined by the CSAC. The arbitration was held on March 28 with Foster serving as the arbitrator with the assistance of two attorneys from the AGs office.
Harvey claimed that the representation agreement was drafted as a talent contract and not a fighter-manager contract. Regardless, Rousey’s attorneys argued that the representation agreement was void under California law.
The facts stated that Rousey and Harvey entered into a 3 year agreement starting on May 15, 2012 and signed on January 29, 2013. Harvey would receive 10% of Rousey’s income generated from professional fighting, modeling, acting and other commercial activities. However, the CSAC determined that the agreement “was not prepared on the required, pre-approved forms, nor did both parties appear before the commission at the same time in order to receive the commission’s approval, thereby invalidating the agreement as a fighter-manager contract in California.” (quote via Sherdog) The CSAC ruled that Harvey was not a “manager” as defined under Business and Professions Code section 18628
The CSAC left open the issue as to the “commercial activities” that were incidental to “fighting activities” to the court. So, it’s likely that we have not heard the last of this dispute.
MMA Payout will have more on this decision as it becomes available. The initial read from Sherdog’s report reflects the fact that this contract dispute is not over. It’s interesting to note that based on the information available, Harvey sought his manager fee from “commercial activities” which may have been a conflict with Rousey’s agents at William Morris. We note that Rousey signed Fight Tribe’s agreement on January 29, 2013 and then signed on with William Morris in late February 2013. Whether this was coordinated by Harvey and/or the relationship between Fight Tribe and William Morris became strained over time is an issue that may play out in court proceedings.
March 13, 2014
MMA Payout has obtained documents which shows that Ronda Rousey and her management team are in a dispute over its representation of the UFC women’s bantamweight champion. Darin Harvey, President of Fight Tribe Management filed a Petition to Compel Arbitration in LA Superior Court last Friday against Rousey.
The documents filed by Fight Tribe Management, LLC request that the Court Compel Arbitration and seek that the briefing in this matter be sealed. If the Court grants the Application to seal, the documents will unlikely be available to the public. In his Declaration in Support of the “Application to Seal Briefing,” Darin Harvey states that the terms of the Representation Agreement with Rousey are confidential and cites two clauses in their agreement which support his request. He indicates the contract states financial disclosure of their agreement is to remain confidential “without the prior written consent of the other Party” unless it is required by law. It further cites a clause indicating that any dispute over the agreement should also be confidential in its attempt to resolve it.
Sherdog’s Mike Whitman spoke with Rousey’s legal representation in this matter and indicated that there may be an issue as to whether a private arbitrator can resolve the matter or whether the California State Athletic Commission should be in charge of resolving this dispute. Rousey’s attorney, Steven Bash indicated that the dispute is governed by the California State Athletic Commission and the California Business and Professions Code. Bash stated that he has yet to file a response and could not give specifics on the nature of what it would be.
This will be an interesting legal fight that we will follow. Rousey’s lawyer states that the dispute should be resolved under the rules of the California State Athletic Commission while Fight Tribe Management has filed to compel arbitration in Superior Court. We might see an initial dispute over that procedural issue. There are rules for managers and fighters under the CSAC but whether they apply to this situation is not known due to the confidentiality of the dispute at this point.
There are arbitration provisions under Article 3, §227 of the California Code of Regulations which relate to contractual issues. These relate to boxers but we might assume that MMA fighters would fall under this provision. However, it does not look as though there are rules which would seal briefing (unless the parties agree pursuant to the terms in the agreement in dispute). The rules state that the parties would have to furnish the contracts that are in dispute at the arbitration hearing.
MMA Payout will keep you posted.
February 14, 2014
We wrote yesterday about the rocky contract negotiations between Gilbert Melendez (22-3, 1-1 UFC) and the UFC. Today, Bellator shocked the MMA landscape by announcing a multi-fight deal with one of the best lightweights in the world in Melendez, though the UFC currently maintains matching rights.
Gilbert Melendez sits atop the UFC’s lightweight division. With victories over Josh Thomson, Diego Sanchez, Shinya Aoki and Jorge Masvidal, “El Nino” is ready for a new crop of challengers as the Santa Ana native has agreed to a multi-fight, multi-year deal structure with Bellator that can pit Melendez against some of MMA’s best, including Eddie Alvarez, Michael Chandler, Will Brooks, Dave Jansen and a host of top lightweights from around the world.
“The moment Gil was legally able to explore the free agent market, Gil’s management team reached out to me and we began figuring out how to bring Gil to Bellator,” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney. “It’s no secret that I’ve been a big “El Nino” fan for many years. Gil was one of the first fighters I tried to sign when I launched Bellator back in 2008, and he’s grown and developed into one of the best and most exciting lightweights on earth. Gil has a vision for what he wants to accomplish both inside and outside the cage and we can help make his vision a reality. We are in the business of developing and showcasing the greatest fighters on earth. That’s what we intend to do here with Gil and it’s what we’ll continue to do in the future.”
The UFC currently holds matching rights on Melendez.
Bellator’s announcement today was pretty shocking and caught many in the MMA landscape off-guard. Nevertheless, it’s a key strategic move for Melendez, who is trying to maximize his market value. This is a classic example of pinning bidder A versus bidder B, and illustrates the importance of having more than just one key player in the MMA landscape for fighters. Whether Melendez ends up in Bellator or UFC matches Bellator’s pay and signs back with the promotion, it will be a win/win for Melendez in the short run.
In the long run, for a fighter who is as exciting as Melendez, you risk making a choice that may seem near-sighted, and could miss out on potential fight of the night or performance bonuses in addition to base pay, which could end up surpassing Bellator’s proposed pay. Although the exact numbers of the deal are not available at this time, MMAPayout will report them as they become available.
Winning a title and getting a push from the UFC is invaluable for a fighter, but Bellator will do their best to match the same benefits as they tried to do with with Eddie Alvarez, such as offering exposure on Spike TV, featured in a potential PPV down the line against either Eddie Alvarez or Mike Chandler, two of the best lightweights in the world, and certainly other Viacom opportunities.
The ball is now in the UFC’s court, and it’s up to them to determine if they want to retain Melendez and match what Bellator is offering or let him walk away to a competitor.
December 13, 2013
Earlier today, during a last minute scheduled press conference call from Montreal, Georges St-Pierre announced that he is going to take an indefinite leave of absence from the UFC and vacate his welterweight title in order to deal with personal issues.
GSP opened up the conference call with the following statement,
I’ve been fighting a very long time at a high level. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of criticism, and I’ve decided I need to take time off. I know UFC is a business, and it can’t wait for one person. They have to keep things rolling, so I’ve vacated my title out of respect to the other competitors.
No timetable was given on when GSP would return, or if he would return at all. In his absence, the UFC has scheduled Johny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler for the vacated welterweight title on March 15, 2014 as the main event for UFC 171, which will take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX.
We have no idea if GSP will ever be back, and no commitment was made one way or the other, but Dana White pushed the proverbial promoter talk and stated he believed GSP would be back in the Octagon. For years and years, Dana White has trumpeted GSP as the number one draw the UFC has had in its stable, even when Brock Lesnar was around.
Now that he will be gone for at least all of 2014 and considering that the UFC’s stable of champs are ailing from injuries (Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Anthony Pettis, Dominick Cruz) and will be out a significant portion of 2014, the impact to the bottom line next year will be noticeable. On the positive side, for fighters such as Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, and Anderson Silva, the bargaining chips and assumed leverage has never been more on their favor then it is now.
In 2013, after 12 events (UFC 156 – UFC 166), the UFC has averaged an estimated 430K PPV buys. Without GSP headlining UFC 158 nor UFC 167, the highest PPV buy total would be in the 550,000 range. The average PPV buy number would also dip into the upper 300K range, which would equate close to a loss of roughly 800,000 – 1M PPV buys.
Another interesting note from the presser was Dana White’s comment about GSP’s contract status with the UFC during his leave. White stated that GSP’s contract would be “frozen” while he is on leave and would continue whenever he returns. Without any timelines set by GSP and considering that he vacated his belt, it would be interesting to see what parts of his contract are triggered by this scenario, which is one that the UFC has not had to exercise at all in recent years.
August 21, 2013
ESPN’s Josh Gross reports that Bellator will let Ben Askren leave for the UFC if Dana White wants the welterweight standout. Bellator head Bjorn Rebney told ESPN that it would not make an offer to Askren.
Askren’s last contracted fight was this past July. Similar to Alvarez, its believed that Bellator has the right to match any contract offered to Askren. However, it appears that it is passing. The news was surprising considering Askren’s record and perhaps not surprising considering Askren’s wrestling-heavy, grinding style which is not exciting. After a bitter legal battle with Eddie Alvarez,which ended in a settlement and Alvarez coming back to Bellator, the company has made a decision on Askren.
When asked about whether Askren would be on Bellator’s first PPV in November he indicated that there would be “no chance.” Thus, it was likely that the parting was mutual.
Askren has already been in contact with Dana White via twitter:
— Ben Askren (@Benaskren) August 21, 2013
Askren is a dominant wrestler and a personality but his style may have been a reason Bellator has decided to give up on re-signing him. However, Bellator needs top level talent for the company and the PPV. Askren is dominating and Bellator could have utilized this. Perhaps Bellator saw another Alvarez situation on the horizon and thought best to let him go rather than get embroiled in another costly lawsuit. We will see if Askren does end up in the UFC and how his talent does in the UFC’s welterweight division.
July 25, 2013
MMA Junkie reports that Bellator has signed Michael Chandler to a “long term deal” with the organization. According to Bellator, the signing makes Chandler one of the highest paid lightweights.
According to Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, Chandler will be with Bellator for a “minimum of eight fights.”
Ironically, Chandler’s deal was made easier due to the Eddie Alvarez lawsuit. Chandler defeated Alvarez for the Bellator belt.
Via MMA Junkie:
Of course, Chandler admitted, it helped that an ongoing legal battle between Bellator and Alvarez has made the details of the organization’s offer to the former champ public knowledge. It showed him what Bellator was willing to pay a man he’d already beaten, and informed his own notion of what he should expect to make for a new deal, he said.
Securing Chandler to a long term deal made sense for Bellator but did it for Chandler? The UFC is still the major leagues in MMA when it comes to competition and earning potential. No word on the type of money Chandler could be making but we may assume he’s one of the top paid in Bellator. It is interesting that Chandler (and his reps) would not have known the market for him but for the Alvarez contract becoming a matter of public record. While it’s likely that they would have known a ballpark figure, the documents produced in Alvarez’s lawsuit helped with filling in specifics. For Chandler, being the top guy in the lightweight division Bellator may be a good career choice provided he’s afforded sponsorship opportunities and other revenue streams. If Bellator/Spike contract with Chandler to help build his brand and grant him opportunities outside of the Octagon (e.g. Spike TV appearances, announcing, specials) the deal could help Chandler beyond the length of the deal.
February 18, 2013
The Eddie Alvarez-Bellator situation may be drawing closer to a possible settlement as Patrick English, attorney for Bellator, sent a letter to the Court requesting an extension of time to respond to Alvarez’s Counterclaims. The parties have agreed to the extension until March 1, 2013 and the Court approval should be a mere formality.
Mr. English attached a Consent Order requesting an extension of time for Bellator to receive an extension of time to file an Answer to the Counterclaim until March 1, 2013. Previously, Bellator had an extension to respond until Tuesday, February 19th. This second extension appears that the parties are willing to negotiate a settlement without further litigation.
Obviously, the Court’s denial of Eddie Alvarez’s Preliminary Injunction weighs heavy into the decision to settle the lawsuits without further litigation. At the preliminary injunction hearing, Alvarez’s attorneys failed to show the Court that it would have a reasonable probability of success on the merits and they failed to show that Alvarez would suffer irreparable harm. These were two of the four factors required to prevail on a preliminary injunction. If Alvarez would have succeeded, it would have been likely that he would have signed a contract with the UFC.
However, Bellator had a strong opposition brief which included two declarations which addressed the issues of the 1) right to match, 2) the Fox v. Spike TV comparison, and 3) the PPV issue. Prior to the preliminary injunction hearing, a Certification of MMA journalist Dave Meltzer was filed on Alvarez’s behalf. The certification rebuts the declarations filed by Bellator in its opposition to the preliminary injunction. The certification identified UFC PPV buy rates with the belief that Alvarez would have made more if he would have been allowed to fight in the UFC.
The Court did not agree with Alvarez’s argument that Bellator could not provide an identical match was a failure to match. The Court held this argument untenable although it did not discount that Alvarez could not win based on this theory. So, while Alvarez lost on this point here, he could win after the discovery phase.
As for the irreparable harm argument, the Court held that Alvarez’s argument that he would be harmed if he could not fight in the UFC on April 27th was speculative at best. There was no illegal restraint on Alvarez by Bellator and he could still compete professionally even if an injunction were not granted.
It will be interesting to see if the parties can come up with a settlement that would make both parties happy. The fact Alvarez lost the injunction does not make him bound to the contract offered by Bellator. He could continue with the lawsuit if he truly wanted to fight the issue. But,we might see some compromise in which Alvarez can be bought out of his contract after a certain number of fights if he truly wants to head to the UFC. If Alvarez did not want to stay, it would make sense for Bellator as I do not see the company wanting a malcontent with its new partnership with Spike. Maybe the number of fights with Bellator is reduced without a right of first refusal or matching rights clause so that he can fight elsewhere. However, Bellator may make Alvarez a solid offer as a way to make him happy and be a face for the company. He could be made one of the top (if not the top) paid fighters in the company. We should know by March 1st which way Alvarez goes.