Should the UFC Have the Power to Veto Outside Projects?

via www.totalprosports.com

Rampage Jackson's decision to pull out of UFC 107 in order to star in The A-Team has those inside and outside the company considering how these incidents can be avoided in the future.  The guys over at MMA Payout think the UFC should add some kind of clause to its contracts that would tie fighters to a certain date in the future:

MMAPayout.com colleague David Wolf suggested that the UFC might need to create some sort of guarantee – either by veto or contractual obligation – and I agree. The fans are going to be upset, and claim that the UFC already has too much power, but it’s simply good business to protect your investment. It’s also quite fair to add a little insurance into a contract like the Ultimate Fighter series, "if you agree to particpate, you’re agreeing to a fight at this time and date."

There are a few issues with this approach.  First, all bout agreements basically include similar language, but you can't sue for specific performance in the fighting context, so it doesn't help.  This happens all the time with UFC bout agreements.  Guys agree to a date, but then for one reason or another they can't do it.  No court in the United States will force a fighter to fight if he doesn't want to, so the UFC could sue for damages or just reschedule.  Since they aren't going to sue, they're left with few options.

Another possibility would be language giving the UFC veto power over outside projects for fighters.  But a clause like that would probably be unenforceable unless the fighters were actual employees.  The fighters are independent contractors, not employees, and the UFC benefits extensively from that classification.  If they're to remain independent contractors, the UFC can't control what they do on their own time outside of fighting.

Of course, there are a number of provisions in UFC contracts that appear unenforceable on their face.  Fighters are generally unwilling to spend a ton of money and years in court to fight against these clauses, so they tend to be effective even if they wouldn't hold up in court.

The best option would be to add a contractual obligation for fighters to disclose any outside projects that could possibly interfere with a regular fighting schedule, and to keep the UFC updated on the status of such projects.  The clause wouldn't give the UFC veto power over the projects, but would contractually obligate fighters to disclose them, thus giving the UFC time to line up alternative options instead of being caught by surprise at the last minute.

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