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Today’s chalkboard: Jake Shields, Dana White, and UFC business matters

By Zach Arnold | November 21, 2008

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I’ll add more links throughout the day.

Elite XC 170-pound champion Jake Shields says that he’s a free agent now:

“My 30 days is up today,” Shields said on Thursday. “Today I consider myself a free agent. EliteXC still has no reply, but as far as the contract goes, I’m a free agent today.”

“My dad manages me,” Shields said. “He’s just started looking around today. Obviously the UFC being the top show that I’m looking at, but I’m definitely going to look around a little bit. Hopefully I’ll be signed somewhere in the next month and be fighting within two or three months.”

Honolulu Star Bulletin: UFC President Dana White says taxes make running a show in Hawaii untenable.

Plus, a wacky Dana quote:

“When we do live fights, Hawaii is the equivalent of everybody who has a … television watches the fights in Hawaii,” White said. “The numbers we pull out of here are like ‘American Idol’ numbers in the United States.

Sam Caplan: Focus on the bigger picture here with UFC’s firing and re-hiring of Jon Fitch:

While listening and reading some of UFC president Dana White’s emotionally charged diatribes, I did not get the feeling that what was taking place was calculated. It was madness without any sort of method and that is unacceptable from a company with a market cap as big as the UFC’s. And don’t tell me how other companies in MMA have acted unprofessionally in the past because the UFC has always strived for something better.

White’s tirades coupled with the news that Fitch worked out his UFC issues with Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta instead of White has prompted many to speculate that Dana was solely responsible for the situation. There’s a theory that Fertitta performed damage control yesterday and cleaned up Dana’s mess. While that may be the case, I’m not so sure. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think a company makes a politically charged decision such as cutting an 8-1 fighter over a management dispute without consulting its majority ownership.

Ivan Trembow – UFC proof of fear, intimidation, and making examples out of people

The message to fighters was clear: If you want to keep fighting in the UFC, but your manager or lawyer advises you against signing this merchandising agreement or any other contractual agreement that may arise in the future, you can and should just circumvent your manager, contact the UFC directly, and sign whatever we tell you to sign.

The attitude of, “Where else is he going to go?” combined with the lack of a fighters’ union or any form of collective bargaining will ensure that the fighters can’t, as Fitch put it, “stand up for their rights” without permanently crippling their careers. And as long as that’s the case, the UFC is going to continue to prey on that.

The fact that this has been horrible P.R. for the UFC doesn’t appear to matter to them. They have succeeded in sending a strong message to any fighter or manager who is even thinking about refusing to sign anything that the UFC orders them to sign in the future. The UFC got what they wanted, and they got it the same way that they often get what they want in contract negotiations: Through fear, intimidation, and making examples out of people.

Topics: Media, MMA, Pro Elite, UFC, Zach Arnold | 21 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

21 Responses to “Today’s chalkboard: Jake Shields, Dana White, and UFC business matters”

  1. Dave says:

    While I agree with Ivan’s point on principle, Fitch turned down the contract against his management and legal counsel’s urgings.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    Even if there was a fighter’s union, they wouldn’t have allowed the contracts to be altered for different athletes. At least in the case of this video game issue. However, they would have power to:

    1) Make sure the contract that all fighter’s sign is fair for both parties.

    2) Make sure there is a seperation between marketing and athletics. Where a fighter can just choose not to sign the contract, but still not be fired from the UFC. He would just lose his right to be in the game.

    From a long term perspective of the sport, this incident is not a bad one. It will only get fighter’s thinking more about coming together and unifying their power.

  3. klown says:

    These management teams and even training camps are akin to mini-unions, where several fighters exchange information and hitch one another’s destiny’s together. Certainly, Zuffa will make every attempt to destroy them and further isolate and disempower individual fighters who can then be played off each other.

  4. DannyD says:

    Well along with the rest of the news it looks like dream still doen’t like to pay american fighters. Junkie has a blurb about it.

  5. Makea says:

    @a wacky Dana quote:
    Dana’s not really off base with the implied statement that Hawaii isn’t part of the United States.

    Remarks like that are very common even in Hawaii.

    Remember the forum controversies when BJ Penn entered the Octagon with his Kau Inoa T-shirt?

  6. Grape Knee High says:

    Go to Hawaii and see for yourself how easy it is to compare Hawaii to “the States”.

    Anyone who has actually been there will attest to making that mistake at least once (or more). Even Honolulu barely feels like “America” at times, much less the more rural areas.

  7. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    If there was a union, then Fitch already would have signed away his marketing rights to the union when he joined it.

    Of course, he would probably be getting a lot better return on the license than … is it nothing or is it very close to nothing?

    Either way, a better return.

    With Affliction cutting ties with Beard, I’m starting to sense that there’s a possibility that Dana will be moved out of the spotlight by UFC as time goes on. It’s increasingly clear that he’s not really in charge.

    In terms of the “running things past the majority owner” comments, it depends on how the partnership agreement is written. Most partnership agreements assign some members to be “in charge” but by default, any partner can engage in legally binding acts on behalf of the partnership.

  8. Grape Knee High says:

    Jeremy,

    Common sense would dictate you’re right about Dana and the UFC spotlight, but the overriding factor here is that he is the heart and soul of the UFC promotional machine.

    As much as he is a douchenozzle, he’s a charismatic douchenozzle that is a lightning rod in the industry. Love him or hate him, everyone listens when he speaks.

    In a sense, he IS the UFC brand all by himself.

  9. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Yes, I understand that, and that’s been my position up to this point. However, I also recognize that there is a line out there somewhere, and my sense is that he might actually be approaching it now.

  10. Ivan Trembow says:

    Wow, that is a great article by Sam Caplan. He hit the nail right on the head with several different points. In addition to the excerpt posted above, I think this was particularly spot-on:

    “To hear him complain about the sacrifices he makes on a daily basis with the expectation that his employees should repay him by going along to get along is insulting. Does he not understand that he isn’t the only person in his company making sacrifices? Zuffa is understaffed and everyone in that company that I’ve ever encountered is nothing short of a go-getter. And how can White be so flippant about the sacrifices that a fighter makes on a daily basis? The injuries (short-term and long-term); the toll on a fighter’s personal life brought about by long training camps; weight management and not being able to enjoy food; and the overall lack of security (no health benefits provided by employer, no 401K, no worker’s compensation, etc.) is a lifestyle all successful fighters must endure.

    Look, no one has to be a fighter and the life of a fighter is one that individuals choose on their own. But they are making the choice and White has become a multi-millionaire thanks to that choice. White needs to go see a shrink so that he can stop using public forums as a therapy pit because he doesn’t have an exclusivety on hard work and sacrifice.”

  11. The Citizen says:

    Yeah bitches, I’m the f’in Grim Reaper. Can’t wait for the Dana White movie to come out. Its perfect for a Spike Original.

  12. GB says:

    The scheme is really simple. Dana plays bad cop and Lorenzo plays good cop. That’s why Tito still respects the latter while he can stand the former. I don’t know if it’s a good way to do business, but so far it’s worked.

  13. Zack says:

    No thread for Strikeforce? Entertaining night of fights.

  14. EJ says:

    GB has it exactly right, this was the UFC doing what they do best crushing their opposition by any means neccesary. Fitch and AKA were made an example of by Zuffa that if you don’t want to do business their way you don’t do business with them at all.

    Dana doesn’t have the pull to just release fighters out of the blue, Lorenzo was in on this from the beginning and just like with Tito there isn’t a move that one does without the others approval. It’s been like that since the begining i’m surprised that no one has caught on how close these 2 are not only as friends but as businessmen.

    In the end Zuffa isn’t changing what has been a very succesfull way of doing business and if there needs to be another example made they’ll do it regardless of how many bloggers get their feelings hurt because of it.

  15. Ivan Trembow says:

    According to what Fitch said in the MMARated interview, what happened during the Lorenzo Fertitta coversation was that Fertitta “give his word” that the merchandising contract was not a permanent thing and that if they “ever wanted to leave,” there’s a possibility that they could get out of it. Of course, the actual contract says that it’s both lifetime and exclusive, as Dana White acknowledged in the USA Today interview.

    It’s also interesting to note how the UFC is preying on fighters’ lack of knowledge about other potential video game deals. We’ve seen multiple fighters, including Fitch, say something to the effect of, “Come on, who else is going to be want to put ME in a video game?” This demonstrates that they are completely unaware of the fact that the biggest video game publisher in the world, Electronic Arts, also has a mixed martial arts game in the pipeline, and unlike Zuffa/THQ, they are willing to pay fighters to be a part of it. It’s not like it would be a huge amount of money, but it shows the fighters not being aware of what they’re signing away.

  16. cyph says:

    Still harping on that rumor? I’m willing to bet anything that there are no EA MMA games. That rumor surfaced 10 months ago and so far there have been no confirmation of that one and only one rumor from 1UP. Video games companies have a habit of releasing bits of information every few months or so to hype things up until release. No information from EA after 10 months? Have they NOT make any progress on it in ten months? At least one pre-rendered picture?

    There is no EA MMA game. Stop this rumor already!

  17. Ivan Trembow says:

    Sam Caplan of FiveOuncesofPain.com reported on it, having spoken with multiple sources. Feel free to still believe the opposite.

    Also, it is not uncommon for video games, especially first-generation video games with new engines, to spend 12-18 months in a pre-production phase.

  18. cyph says:

    Feel free to link any reports of the game with a concrete source.

    When a game is in pre-production, multiple video game sources (gamespot, IGN, etc.) reports it within a few days of each other. It’s not unheard of to have reports of a game in pre-production 3 or more years before it’s released. There is absolutely no way a video game goes into pre-production without a peep from the game blogs and media, especially after ten months of the first rumor.

    To put things into perspective, the first rumor of a UFC game by THQ was early 2007 for a 2008 release. It’s now been pushed back to early 2009. Pictures of the UFC game was released shortly after it was first reported. The EA game was supposedly going to be released to compete with the THQ game. If it’s still in pre-production, it’s been ten months since the first rumor. Shouldn’t there be further reports, pictures, or press releases by this time to coincide with the media blitz of UFC 2009?

    I think if there was indeed a game, it’s been long canceled by now. EA knows how to hype their games; no hype, no game.

  19. DannyD says:

    Being a life long gammer I agree 100% with cyph. I would be suprised to say the least if EA had a MMA game even out of the idea stage yet. I have heard Absolutly nothing on it ever.

  20. Ivan Trembow says:

    I’m not going to get into a back-and-forth argument with someone who can rationalize to themselves, “Hmm, I can see the existence of EA’s MMA being reported as a major aspect of the UFC/AKA story by a credible journalist like Sam Caplan, but I say it doesn’t exist, therefore it doesn’t exist,” so this is going to be my last post about this. If the game being reported on by Sam Caplan, Game Informer Magazine’s news section, and 1up.com’s rumors section isn’t enough to “convince” you, then there’s no convincing you.

    You are also sadly mistaken if you think that all games have a monolithic PR campaign that always starts X number of months before the game’s release. To use two recent examples just from the same publisher, EA waited until FaceBreaker and Mirror’s Edge were less than 12 months away from release to unveil them at trade shows, show them to video game magazines, etc, and both of those games were major releases.

  21. cyph says:

    Okay, Ivan.

    You just proved to everybody why the game doesn’t exist. When a game is first reported exists, a flurry of information would soon be thereafter. Which was the case with Facebreaker and Mirror’s Edge since there were a deluge of information and hype on it once the publisher first acknowledged its existence.

    However, I’m a reasonable guy. We’ll come back to this topic in six months. If there’s no information on that game by then, will you please no longer mention mention this rumor ever again? File this in your proven false section along with your myths of “Lorenzo voted down sanctioning of MMA in order to buy UFC from SEG” and “TUF was Spike’s idea.”

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