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Report: Jon Fitch released by UFC

By Zach Arnold | November 19, 2008

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And the reasoning has nothing to do with his fighting ability, either:

Former number one UFC welterweight contender Jon Fitch was today handed his walking papers for refusing to sign an agreement that would give the promotion exclusive lifetime video game rights to his name and likeness, MMAmania.com can exclusively confirm.

My first reaction: UFC wouldn’t be so willing to do this move if they didn’t think that Jake Shields would soon become available on the open market.

My second reaction: This situation reminds me a lot of the lawsuit that famous poker players filed against the World Poker Tour.

My third reaction: This is pretty abhorrent behavior, in my opinion, on the part of UFC. Yes, the 170 pound division has a lot of talent. I realize that Fitch was outclassed by St. Pierre in Minnesota last August, but that still doesn’t change the fact that he’s a decent fighter to have on the roster. Remember, this latest business dispute with UFC is not the first time Fitch has encountered anger from the powers-that-be — he was also going to be sponsored for a fight by MMA Mania and UFC supposedly put the squash on that.

Here’s hoping that Jon Fitch can find himself booked in Japan very shortly. I think he was vastly underutilized by UFC.

There is a part of me that is wondering… why is UFC so hard up on the licensing rights agreement issue right now? Are they in that much need of a revenue stream? It’s not as if Jon Fitch being in the video game would make or break sales of it. So, I wonder if there’s another motive at work here…

Luke Thomas has some thoughts on this developing story. I’m sure that Rob Maysey will also have some thoughts to share on this situation soon.

Update: Dave Meltzer reports that other stars like Cain Velasquez and Josh Koscheck could get cut very soon.

While there will be some who attack agent Bob Cook for telling his fighters not to sign the ‘lifetime’ rights give-away deal by UFC, let me be the first to stand up and applaud Cook for doing his job. He’s trying to represent his fighters as best as he possibly can. We can’t complain about piss-poor representation in the sport and then, when fighters do get legitimate agents who look out for their clients, suddenly complain about fighters being ‘greedy.’ The situation UFC seems to be creating for themselves, in my opinion, is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

There’s little upside for UFC to cut guys like Jon Fitch or Cain Velasquez over this situation, considering what the company currently pays for them per fight. This situation will ensure negative media attention and probably take away a fair amount of good-will that was earned in the major sports media over the weekend with Brock Lesnar’s title win. No other ‘major sport’ has issues like this, but then again most other ‘major sports’ have players associations/unions.

So much for those upcoming ‘legendary’ Brock Lesnar/Cain Velasquez fights.

Update II: From UFC-friendly Kevin Iole… Dana White says he doesn’t want to do business with any fighters associated with American Kickboxing Academy any longer.

“Affliction is still out there trying to build its company. Let [Fitch] go work with them. Let him see what he thinks of those [expletives]. [Expletive] him. These guys aren’t partners with us. [Expletive] them. All of them, every last [expletive] one of them.”

Now, this is a Vince McMahon-style promo. However, check out this gem from Iole’s article:

Zinkin also represents UFC light heavyweight Chuck Liddell, though Liddell does not fight for AKA. White said he has been “beefing with Zinkin for years” and said he had to call Liddell, one of his closest friends, and tell him to get Zinkin to back off.

Shocking – just shocking – that a fight promoter would allegedly tell a fighter to tell his agent to stop being ‘a bully.’ Yes, I’m being sarcastic.

I find it rich that Dana White is now playing: the victim card, the economy-sucks card (a few days after a $4.8 million USD gate in Las Vegas and claims of 1.2 million PPV buys), the you-with-me-or-against-me card, and now the we-want-all-your-likenesses-for-life-you-independent-contractor card. It would be a shame if UFC and WWE had to face a world where they lost a battle in court with fighters challenging their independent contractor status, wouldn’t it?

One other thought… this story gives the anti-MMA people in New York some ammunition now to cause UFC problems in terms of getting MMA legalized in the state.

Michael Rome has more details on the purported agreement Zuffa wanted Fitch to sign.

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Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 53 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

53 Responses to “Report: Jon Fitch released by UFC”

  1. cyph says:

    Ha! You’ll boycott the UFC PPV like I’ll boycott the Superbowl… ain’t going to happen. There are millions dying in Africa and I’m going to be an activist because Fitch didn’t sign his likeness away in a video game?

  2. fightopinionReader says:

    Yes, the ufc actions are small potatoes in the grand scheme of life, but so is the protest. Let the boycott fit the crime.

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