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« | Home | »

UFC 99 aftermath: Ken Imai’s magic with Mirko Cro Cop

By Zach Arnold | June 13, 2009

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Dana White’s stance against one-fight deals has proved prescient. He gave in this one time to Mirko Cro Cop and agent Ken Imai and got bit in return. Mirko’s headed back to Japan.

Give credit to Ken Imai — he took his client, who had little or no leverage in the MMA marketplace, and Team Mirko managed to work over Dana White beautifully. He got his one fight against a relatively ‘safe’ opponent and now will cash in with a new deal with DREAM.

“Isn’t that a dirty [expletive] thing to do?” White asked rhetorically after being queried about Filipovic’s deal with DREAM. “He [expletived] me. The first time in the history of the company I do one over the phone. He promised me a three-fight deal and he [expletived] me.”

No, Dana, Mirko didn’t screw you over. Ken Imai didn’t screw you over. They played you like a fiddle, but they didn’t screw you over. You gave them an opening, they took advantage of it like anyone would in this cutthroat business, and they turned it into something bigger and better.

So I guess we should be ready for Dana White playing the victim here and talking about how he got screwed over, hoping that we forget about all the other past incidents with talent including Jon Fitch over video game rights and John Hackleman over whether or not UFC should force Chuck Liddell into retirement.

As for Mirko saying one thing and doing another to Dana’s face… well, take a look at Mirko’s past history in the fight business and how he handled his deal with power agent Miro Mijatovic before joining Ken Imai and Sakakibara in PRIDE. No surprises there. Dana made a one-fight deal with the devil and the devil acted like the devil does.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 74 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

74 Responses to “UFC 99 aftermath: Ken Imai’s magic with Mirko Cro Cop”

  1. white ninja says:

    You’re right; despite what he says to the press, Mirko has never given a shit about anything except money – not a big surprise Mirko would choose more money and easier fights

    now we’ll hear about how he’s aiming for overeem and fedor; but he’ll end up fighting a few LW Japanese cans (for his fans of course)

  2. Body_Shots says:

    Welcome to the fight business.

    I think you can compare what Dana & Mirko did in it’s nature (speaking of the AKA dust up), it was cutthroat…but CroCop’s lip service to his fans & about his honor was just disgraceful. He should of at least tried to maintain some integrity w/the public.

    Moreover, I don’t see how you can get up in arms over Dana’s conflicts with fighters then treat this situation as if it’s business as usual.

    I guess we should expect more [i]’deal with the devil and the devil acted like any devil would'[/i] commentary from you in the future? Certainly not the over-analytical b1tching we’ve been getting.

  3. Zach Arnold says:

    Moreover, I don’t see how you can get up in arms over Dana’s conflicts with fighters then treat this situation as if it’s business as usual.

    I guess we should expect more [i]‘deal with the devil and the devil acted like any devil would’[/i] commentary from you in the future? Certainly not the over-analytical b1tching we’ve been getting.

    Ahhh, White Ninja and Body Shots… welcome back PRIDE followers! The crowd still exists!

  4. Fluyid says:

    LOL! Suck it, Dana. Pride never die!

  5. Fluyid says:

    I hope Dana and company don’t now declare this a no contest based on the eye poke. After all, Liddell’s rise to the top was due to this very move.

    Hey, Dana, maybe you guys can buy DREAM for $60 million too!

  6. EJ says:

    Congratulations Mirko, you looked unimpressive against a C league fighter and you pissed off the boss of the biggest MMA org in the world all in one night.

    How anyone can try and spin that as a good thing is laughable, all CC did was put the final nail in his own coffin because he ruined the one thing an MMA fighter can afford to his reputation.

    I hope people remember this momment when they want to talk about the UFC’s ultra demanding contracts and other crap, because this is the perfect example as to why the UFC way is the only way to do things.

  7. 45 Huddle says:

    Cro Cop is a scumbag. Contractually he did nothing wrong. However, he doesn’t have to lie to his fans and to Dana White. That is what makes him a scum bag.

    At the end of the day, this has zero effect on the UFC. These PPV’s get half what the US Shows have been getting, so the audience is smaller. And it’s not like Cro Cop came off as a star.

    I have heard some people say DW deserved it because he cuts people from their contracts. That is apples and oranges. With the UFC cutting fighters, it is agreed upon in their contracts as to what can happen after fights. Cro Cop, from what it sounds like, blatantly lied to Dana White. And he definitely lied to his fans.

    Of course, the conspiracy theorist in me wants to think this is just a big show being put on here:

    1. UFC wanted to bulk up ticket sales. Cro Cop could help that.

    2. UFC had Fedor’s agent screaming at the top of his lungs about how the UFC should do a 1 fight deal with Fedor.

    3. Now both problems have been solved. Cro Cop helped out a show. Fedor’s management doesn’t have a leg to stand on with that specific topic. And DW cries foul at the end of this whole thing to save face.

    Or perhaps Cro Cop really is just a scum bag…..

  8. Fluyid says:

    “At the end of the day, this has zero effect on the UFC.”

    That’s the truth, but I still don’t mind seeing baldy getting whiny about stuff like this.

    I’m off to watch Clottey vs. Cotto.

  9. Mike Rome says:

    Err, Zach, unfortunately you are taking as shortsighted a view of this as Mirko and his agent.

    A lawsuit is probably coming, with claims for breach of contract, fraud, violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, detrimental reliance, and more.

    We’d need to know the conversation to see if there was an oral contract, there may have been. And whether U.S. courts have jurisdiction is a close question, but the answer is probably yes. They can also sue abroad. If they do, Mirko will spend more money defending this than he “played” Dana for.

  10. Keishi says:

    Body_Shots

    http://www.fightopinion.com/2008/02/12/six-degrees-of-ken-imai/

    It would seem like you like the basic familiarity with what Zach is talking about.

  11. jdavis says:

    I wonder if in the long run burning his bridges and publically discrediting your own word with promoters everywhere was worth one fight with a irrelevant opponent? Maybe Cro Cop is close to retirement anyway or perhaps he thinks he will fight for Dream the rest of his life but more than any of the stuff Imai has pulled with Cro Cop before this was done in public view instead of behind the scenes and that will make a difference.

    Of course doing it to the UFC is one thing but it really sucks that he did this to his fans. He could of just went back to Dream without lying about his intentions to his fans. This definatly puts him in a different light as a person.

  12. Alan Conceicao says:

    We’d need to know the conversation to see if there was an oral contract, there may have been. And whether U.S. courts have jurisdiction is a close question, but the answer is probably yes. They can also sue abroad. If they do, Mirko will spend more money defending this than he “played” Dana for.

    If they sue in the US, what guarantee is there that they’d ever collect from Cro-Cop? If they sue abroad, where? Germany? Croatia?

  13. Chuck says:

    This is hilarious!! I am not a Dana White hater or anything, and I do agree that what Cro Cop did was pretty shitty, but this is still fucking hilarious! Of course the most ardent of UFC and Dana White supporters are going to piss on Cro Cop for this, and of course the biggest Dana haters and PRIDE fanboys are going to love this news. Hey, welcome to the fight business. Zach said this just about perfectly; Dana was played like a fiddle. Good for Cro Cop for being a good businessman. He got what he wanted (I presume) and he is going back to DREAM after getting what I presume was a decent payday for the UFC show.

    Listen people, Dana is NOT a victim, he’s not a helpless stork or whatever, he is a promoter and a businessman, and a very shrewd one at that. So he got fucked and lost this one. Big fucking deal! He’s a big boy, he can take it. Okay, maybe he can’t take it, but that’s his problem for having an ego problem.

    I’m sure if this happened to Scott Coker, Monte Cox, Don King, Lou Dibella, Bob Arum, etc. no one would make this out to be a big deal. You know why? Because this shit happens ALL THE TIME!!!! Hell, I remember when KJ Noons left EXC suddenly, most people thought it was a great idea that he left the way he did. Very little difference than what happened here. Do you know how many small time promoters (of any combat sport, including pro wrestling) get burned by prospects leaving them when a bigger promoter comes around with more money? It happens all the time. Now people suddenly care when it happens to Dana White? Please!!! How hypocritical can you get?

  14. Mike Rome says:

    If they sued in the U.S. and won, they would be easily able to collect from Mirko because Croatia enforces foreign civil judgments from the United States. You bring the judgment to a croatian court with an application to enforce, the judgment itself, confirmation the judgment is final in the U.S., and written confirmation by the U.S. court they had jurisdiction.

    If they sued in Europe, it would be in Croatia or Germany, where I don’t know anything about contract law there. Both countries would have jurisdiction so the UFC could have its pick. Whether the U.S. has jurisdiction is a trickier question.

    I saw a lot of talk about how hard it would be for the UFC to collect from the Pride defendants if they won, and all of that was entirely wrong. Japan is actually an easy country to bring a foreign judgment to for enforcement, it happens routinely.

    Also, to be honest, I’m not totally buying this story just yet. We’ve heard Dana’s side in which he’s the victim, perhaps Mirko has his own side.

  15. Fluyid says:

    Rome and all you other journalists: do your job and tell us who won the real fight of the night, Grandpa Rey Mercer or Tim Sylvia.

  16. Alan Conceicao says:

    I wondered about the ability to enforce a contract if one exists. I have a feeling they don’t have one. I’m guessing (not a lawyer) that Mirko saying he wanted a 3 fight contract is not enforceable if they never agreed to any terms for one, like pay. It sounded like, coming into this, they hadn’t. Sucks from the perspective that we won’t get to see Mirko Cro-Cop fight in the UFC against some of the guys there, but who knows? Maybe he has a fight with Fedor waiting for him. I’d be hard pressed to blame the guy for not fighting Cain Velasquez if that ends up being the case.

  17. Mike Rome says:

    If they choose to sue, the whole case will turn on the conversation and whether a contract existed. Factors like agreeing to pay would be the kind of thing the court would consider.

    Even without the contract though, I think there is a fraud claim against him, and an estoppel claim.

    The UFC’s thing is to beat people down with litigation in terms of attorney fees and other costs even if they think the outcome is questionable. If Dana is pissed enough, he may sick his lawyers on this.

  18. Alan Conceicao says:

    I see what you’re saying, but wouldn’t a potentially frivolous lawsuit be subject to a possible countersuit? I’m also not sure how it would necessarily stop Mirko Cro-Cop from fighting in Japan.

  19. Zach Arnold says:

    A lawsuit is probably coming, with claims for breach of contract, fraud, violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, detrimental reliance, and more.

    What is there to sue over? Dana White in the UFC 99 pre-event conf. call said that after Mirko’s fight against Al-Turk, he would sit down with Mirko and see where it went from there.

    A one fight deal is a one fight deal.

    I saw a lot of talk about how hard it would be for the UFC to collect from the Pride defendants if they won, and all of that was entirely wrong. Japan is actually an easy country to bring a foreign judgment to for enforcement, it happens routinely.

    Japan is an easy country to bring a foreign judgment? If that’s the case, I haven’t experienced it personally with any attorneys I know who were in the fight game and did business over there. *laugh*

  20. Chuck says:

    Did Sheldon Goldberg ever get all of the money he won in court against Michinoku Pro?

  21. Mike Rome says:

    Foreign judgments are routinely brought to Japan from the United States for enforcement. There’s a long discussion of the state of the law for enforcement of foreign judgments in Japan here, including examples of enforcement: http://www.gsid.nagoya-u.ac.jp/project/apec/lawdb/japan/dispute/disp2-en.html

    Nothing like being laughed at by someone insisting 2 + 2 is 5. Japan has a standard set of enforcement procedures for foreign judgments, their requirements are similar to almost every other country’s that regularly enforces foreign judgments. On the arbitration side, they are party to the New York Convention as well, which is the international treaty for enforcing foreign arbitral awards.

    To Alan, yes there are counter suits, but if it’s a close question then it’s not totally frivolous. It’s rare to win on that though even when maybe you should, because someone can always claim they believed they would win, and you usually have to prove that they knew or should have knew their claims had zero merit. It’s a tough standard usually.

  22. Alan Conceicao says:

    I think we’re all getting ahead of ourselves. If Dana was really looking at suing him, I doubt he’d be going out and doing interviews talking about how they were still working on terms or bitching afterwards about how he had only made a one fight contract. Those wouldn’t help, I’m sure.

  23. Shane says:

    Surely it’s a breach of contract that Crocop signed a three fight deal with Dream before he completed the contractual obligations of the one fight Zuffa contract he put pen-on-paper to.

  24. Mike Rome says:

    They’ll have to decide whether to file, though I wouldn’t take Dana’s own dumb statements as proof they won’t file. I think he tends to say shit without thinking. I kind of just wanted to mention it as a possibility until Zach wanted to make an issue of it.

    I just hope Mirko and his agent took the necessary precautions to avoid liability. I don’t want to see them beat him down in court. Frankly, for all the times the UFC cuts guys in long contracts after 1 fight, I’m not exactly weeping for them.

  25. Zack says:

    Dana didn’t get screwed at all if they had a 1 fight deal. Cro Cop provided a lot more interest in the card (and got the biggest pop at the weigh ins.) He beat a fighter that means nothing in the UFC title picture, so who cares? Move on.

    Dana can’t resist acting like a scorn girlfriend once again.

    He fulfilled his one fight deal. This is no different than Werdum signing a brand new deal prior to getting knocked out. He was supposed to have X amount of fights at X amount of dollars, but he signed a contract that said when you lose, you can be cut. That’s what happened. Fair or not, cool or not, that’s what the contract was.

    There isn’t really anything interesting in Dream for Cro Cop, but I’d love to see him in Affliction if they do another show. Mirko vs the winner of Buentello/Sylvia would be awesome.

  26. Ivan Trembow says:

    They didn’t even have a one-fight contract. They had a verbal deal for one fight, according to reporting by AOL Fanhouse before the event.

    The one-fight deal only being verbal might also mean that the UFC could withhold Cro Cop’s winning bonus.

    Also, with the accidental finger to the eye in the fight, there is still no rule in Nevada to change a fight like that to a no-contest, not even after the Kevin Burns vs. Anthony Johnson debacle. But since this event didn’t have an athletic commission other than the UFC itself, they could decide to change it to a no-contest themselves.

  27. Dan Wilder says:

    I take back every bad thing and halfhearted trolling attempt I ever said and did to you, Mike Rome.

  28. Ivan Trembow says:

    Apparently, Tim Sylvia got rocked by a huge right hand by Ray Mercer and was knocked out. That’s according to http://nextmmafighter.com/?p=250

  29. Dan Wilder says:

    Yeah, Mercer knocked out Sylvia in ten seconds.

  30. Chuck says:

    YES!!!! Fuck yes! WAR MERCER!!! The awesome news just keeps coming! Tim Sylvia’s career is DONE!!! I imagine the CSAC will bar Sylvia from fighting Buentello at Affliction 3.

  31. Ivan Trembow says:

    Wow, I’ve never seen so much enthusiasm and joy over someone’s career being “DONE!!!”

  32. Alan Conceicao says:

    Tim was a pretty unlikeable and generally conceited guy by the accounts of many, Ivan. I can’t vouch for it because I never like, hung out with the guy, but honestly, targeting a 49 year old broke boxer with a history of Hep doesn’t garner much sympathy.

  33. Ivan Trembow says:

    I’m not saying that I’ve hung out with the guy, either, I’m just saying that it’s odd to see so much joy over someone’s career being “DONE!!!”

  34. Zack says:

    That’s really lame celebrating someone’s career being “over.”

  35. Chuck says:

    Hey, the joy of hearing Mercer winning just sapped and and all impartiality out of me. I apologize, but……..Sylvia’s career is FUCKING DONE!!!!! I hope his boxing aspirations are DONE!!! as well. And I hope the conversations of the fight are not DONE!!!

    Okay, in all seriousness though, where does this leave Sylvia and his spot on Affliction 3? There is no way the CSAC will allow him to fight on the card, so Affliction might have to pull out Fabricio Werdum or Pedro Rizzo (or everyone’s favorite punching bag on short notice, Gary Goodridge) to fight Paul Buentello. And I highly doubt Sylvia will be able to recover from a devastating loss such as the one he suffered against Mercer. And in the span of almost a year (going back to the Fedor loss) Sylvia has two losses with a combined 45 seconds (he lost to Mercer in a recorded time of nine seconds).

  36. Chuck says:

    And for the record, I was NOT celebrating Sylvia’s career being “DONE!!!”. I was celebrating Mercer’s spectacular victory, and me bringing up Sylvia like that was just an added effect or something like that. Zach, if you want to combine this post with my last one, please feel free.

  37. Zack says:

    While Affliction definitely lacks in lots of areas, one area that they’ve done a great job in is last minute replacements.

  38. IceMuncher says:

    If anything, I view the Crocop deal as a positive for the UFC. They lose nothing, so it can’t really be a negative, but they gained a nice “Exhibit A” they can pull out to defend their strict contracts.

  39. Dr. Montgomery says:

    Funny how when Dana is on the bad end of the business he cries like a bitch.

    Mirko looked healthy and in good shape, with some ring rust.

    Looking forward to seeing him again.

  40. Big Bill Bob says:

    Always nice when the bully gets a taste of his own medicene. Terrible fight card and good for Mirko knowing what he’s worth. UFC needs him more then he needs them hence why they threw him on this card at the last second to save face for a poorly constructed fight card. Sure he doesn’t do anything in USA but the foreign expansion makes him a hot commodity, which they no longer have available. Glad he used cueball the way he enjoys using others.

  41. EJ says:

    The UFC needs CC? for what to get destroyed by one of their HW’s again and make yet another contender for the HW title. Give me a break the UFC 99 didn’t gain anything by having a guy with no name in the US, face off against a guy who is about to get cut.

    I hope he enjoys whatever is left of his career fighting nobodies, because it’s obvious he doesn’t want to fight top competition which is why he turned down Cain.

  42. Pierre says:

    As seen in a interview Dana did with Mike Straka after Cro Cops fight “I know he is big in Europe, so to have him on this card kind of fell in my lap.” thttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpFb41nyj2Q

    Having him on the card was definitely a boon for the UFC not necessarily for the US but for the Euro audience as germany has a sizeable croatian population.

    Regarding all the hate towards CroCop lets all wait for all the facts to come out. Everyone is taking DW words as gospel. Come on people we should all know by now he says whatever is in the UFCs interests first nothing else. Even in CroCop postfight interview he stated he did not know what was going to happen next outside of a vacation. Who knows maybe Dream decided to throw him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Are we to hate a man who might be getting a sizeable salary, when most people in his place would probably do the same.

    PS. Not to be sound like i am hating on DW but had CroCop lost DW would have washed his hands clean of CroCop and talked about what a has been he is.

  43. Ivan Trembow says:

    “If anything, I view the Crocop deal as a positive for the UFC. They lose nothing, so it can’t really be a negative, but they gained a nice “Exhibit A” they can pull out to defend their strict contracts.”

    Their “strict contracts”? There’s a huge difference between having a one-fight verbal deal with Cro Cop, and contractual terms like the champions’ clause, which for UFC champions functions as a lifetime no-compete clause and would not stand in any court in the United States.

  44. jt says:

    MUahaha. Crocop, like Fedor and the other big HWs, has always done what the fuck he wants when he wants. I love it.

    As far as HWs go, he can face just as many top contenders outside of the UFC.

    Here’s hoping that he fights in Japan and Affliction stateside. He is a fighter that needs to fight in the ring.

    I bet Sakakibara is liking this one! Go Crocop!!

  45. mmalink says:

    Cro Cop has his own agenda and is seemingly his own boss, you can’t really blame him for wanting to fight back in Japan, they really love him over there. It’s a shame i would have loved to see Cro Cop fight a few more time in the UFC but Ill definately watch his future fights in Dream.

  46. 45 Huddle says:

    Sylvia came in at 310 pounds. He deserved to get KO’d. It also looks like both he and Arlovski are at the points in teir career that they are an automatics KO risk. And he should not be able to fight Buentello in 7 weeks. What have we learned this weekend?

    1) There us a reason the HW division is capped at 265. It forces the HW’s to get in shape.

    2) The UFC is forced to sign multipule fight contracts with their fighters.

  47. Mark says:

    I’m sure Dana will try everything he can to sue him, because he cannot stand it when someone outsmarts him. From what was said prior to the incident, all they had was a agreement to look at possibly signing a longer deal. Next time Dana would be wise to make fighters sign a letter of intent to re-sign, you know, because people lie and stuff. But until then, I laugh knowing Dana got worked.

    But so what if Cro Cop is gone. He’ll be in DREAM where he’ll fight in America at 3am and 800 people will watch in the areas UFC runs. I could see a lawsuit if he did this to go to Strikeforce, but since DREAM isn’t really a direct competitor to UFC, I’d save myself the legal bills and headaches and just blackball him in the states.

    Geez, only making it 10 seconds against a guy close to 50? That is far more embarrassing than shitting on yourself on live television.

  48. IceMuncher says:

    “Their “strict contracts”? There’s a huge difference between having a one-fight verbal deal with Cro Cop, and contractual terms like the champions’ clause, which for UFC champions functions as a lifetime no-compete clause and would not stand in any court in the United States.”

    Two things.

    1) Nothing you said here changes the fact that they’ll use this incident to justify their contract terms. What’s your point?

    2) The UFC lawyers aren’t dumb, in fact Zuffa probably hired guys out of ivy league law schools, and the fact that you think you know law better than them is laughable.

    From what I read of the champion’s clause, it’s not an eternal loop like so many believe (I blame Fedor’s comments). It specifically states that at the end of the contracted terms, if you’re the champion, it extends for one year/3 fights. The extension itself can’t be looped in perpetuity, it’s a one and done deal.

  49. 45 Huddle says:

    I am reading on a lot of message boards that people are saying that Mercer beating Sylvia proves how much better boxing is then MMA. I have to laugh at these people.

    First we are talking about Heavyweights. I don’t care if it is MMA or Boxing, I think we all know the talent pool levels of these divisions are not a reflection of their sports.

    Secondly, this is the same Mercer who got beaten up by Kimbo Slice.

    Lastly, Sylvia came in 50 pounds over weight and we all know Sylvia isn’t the brightest when it comes to game planning.

    I swear, the “MMA Fans” hate the sport they follow. They just pick it apart and bash it. Makes no sense to me. Pulver thought Sylvia would lose, so I don’t see how this is a shock or a win for boxing. This was a sell tickets fight that had rules changed multiple times leading up to it, and what we got was a freakshow finish. Not a “this sport is better then this sport” thing.

    Not to mention that if you look at the current champions, the backgrounds are:

    HW – Wrestling
    LHW – Karate
    MW – Muay Thai
    WW – Strong Wrestling Base (That’s how he wins)
    LW – BJJ

    Just because Machida wins, doesn’t mean Karate is the best. Each style has their merits. And a Heavyweight fight like this doesn’t really show much if anything.

  50. liger05 says:

    Am I the only one who never believed that Mirko would be back in the ufc long term. Once he went to Japan I didnt think he would be back.

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