AKA: Sure, Train With Us, but Only if We Get a Percent of Your Income

Paul_20buentello_mediumWhen Affliction went down in flames, Paul Buentello decided he might want to go to the UFC.  Dana White's feelings on Zinkin Entertainment are well known, and Buentello decided to replace Bob Cook and get a new manager.  As a result, Buentello was suspended from the American Kickboxing Academy, where he's trained since 2000:

According to the fighter and his long-time trainer and friend, Dave Velasquez of Nor Cal Fight Factory, the dispute arose when Buentello replaced Cook with a new manager.

"I’ve always came to this crossroads, if I ever go back to the UFC, I gotta have somebody on board that’s gonna sell me like I’m the best thing since sliced bread," said Buentello. The native Texan believes that someone is Elis Pacheco of New York-based Dedos Marketing Group, which has worked with Ice-T, Fat Joe and Beyonce Knowles.

Cook, Buentello’s former manager and trainer, declined comment.

The practice of trainers simultaneously working as agents for fighters needs to change.  It's very commonplace in MMA because the low payouts keep the big agencies out of the sport, but it results in a number of issues that impact fighters negatively.

There are a number of potential situations in which an agent's interests and a trainer's interests will diverge.  For example, if a fighter at AKA was doing great in the wrestling department, but really needed striking help to reach the next level, a good agent would try to seek out a camp that could give his client what he needs to reach that next level.  If the agent is also the fighter's trainer, and is making money off the fighter paying to train each month, there is an incentive to keep him in camp and away from others.  There's no problem with a camp doing management, but the trainer and manager should not be the same guy.

What happens a lot is young fighters come to a big camp like AKA or ATT, and they end up signing on to be managed by the camp as well.  So then if they ever want to get better representation, they have to worry about being ostracized by their partners or kicked out by their camp.  I have no objection to camps managing fighters, but threatening to throw them out of training for seeking new representation is an outrage.  

I remember hearing Jon Fitch say that before he went out to fight GSP, Bob Cook told him not to throw any lazy leg kicks.  It really struck me as bizarre; you'd never see Kobe Bryant's agent telling him to make sure to rotate more on a jump shot.  Is there any way someone who is teaching people jiu-jitsu for hours at a time during the day is really doing the best job they can representing a fighter?  

One wonders if Cain Velasquez and Jon Fitch would be suspended from AKA if they ever decided they wanted a new agent or manager.

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