One of the most interesting developments out of this weekend was UFC President Dana White basically saying that Roy Nelson's UFC career is on hold until his contract issues are resolved. As you know, Fighters Only broke the story back in August of 2010 of a lawsuit between Roy Jones Jr's company Square Ring and Roy Nelson and Zuffa (parent company of the UFC). They state that they had a contract with Roy that predates his UFC contract. Nelson went ahead and fought Junior Dos Santos that weekend, but now it looks like he won't be fighting anytime soon until this situation resolves itself.
I wondered why the UFC would all of a sudden change up their position (allowing Roy to fight at UFC 117 and now saying he's "out"). It was pretty clear that Square Ring didn't prevent him from fighting JDS with some sort of injunction (which is normal in cases like this) and there has been no news of any injunction since. Justin Klein at the Fight Lawyer Blog (of similar thought) speculates that there might be a settlement on the horizon between Zuffa and Square Ring.
If there is a settlement in the works, I would have no way of knowing whether it is between Zuffa and SRI only or if it includes Nelson. It is possible that Zuffa has agreed to have no further dealings with Nelson until any alleged contract issues between him and SRI are resolved and in exchange SRI would dismiss Zuffa from the action.
As part of this settlement (and to resolve the case), perhaps Nelson agreed to some period of time to abstain from fighting for any other promotion (6 months, a year, can't really be sure).
Alternatively, Nelson may not be part of the hypothetical settlement and may simply have to ride this litigation out until the trial -- according to the docket, the trial is set for January 3, 2012.
As a reminder, this is purely speculation based on a hypothesis. Let's say that Zuffa is settling with Square Ring. Square Ring accepts an unspecified amount to remove Zuffa from the suit. That leaves this issue between Roy Nelson and Square Ring. Now Zuffa has to settle up with Roy Nelson.
We know from the Ken Shamrock situation that Zuffa's iron-clad contracts can hold a fighter responsible for fees and costs associated with litigation. According to the Clark County Court Records, Zuffa did file a crossclaim (claim against another part on the same side of a lawsuit) against Roy Nelson back in May 2010. The Fight Lawyer further expounds:
That is, my guess is that under Zuffa's agreements with Nelson, Nelson has agreed to indemnify Zuffa for any losses Zuffa incurs (including attorney's fees, costs, judgments, etc.) arising from or relating to Nelson's breach of any agreements with any other promoter, which would include all of these claims that undoubtedly arise from Nelson's alleged breach of his agreement with SRI.
Depending on how extensive Zuffa's fees are, that could tally up to be a pretty penny.
So as to the question posed in the title, would Zuffa sever ties with Roy Nelson, the answer is unknown. Could they? Foremost, they could end his contract as he is coming off a loss. Secondly, if Nelson signed a contract with Zuffa (knowingly or not) while still technically under contract with Square Ring, then he has violated his UFC contract which I'm almost positive contains clauses for "exclusivity" and the signer of said contract to be "free and clear" of any other obligations. So even if he wasn't coming off a loss, they have him for breach of contract. So legally, the answer is "Yes".
So then the question becomes "Would they cut ties with Roy Nelson?" That answer is a bit more complicated. We don't know the outcome of his suit with Square Ring. Is Roy Jones looking for a payday? He can't be that broke. How much in "damages" is he looking for? Is he looking to keep Roy from fighting for other organizations? I don't see that as the case as he hasn't even stopped him from fighting in the UFC, remember this was a voluntary move by Zuffa (outside of it being part of an undisclosed settlement). Is he looking for co-promotion or branding with Roy, similar to Fedor and M-1? We haven't heard much, if anything, out of them since "March Badness" back in 2009, so that doesn't seem likely.
Outside of that, there is the "strained" relationship between Dana and Roy. My personal opinion is this is mostly media hype and White doesn't dislike Nelson as much as MMA fans think. I don't know, Dana hasn't returned my texts and voicemails I sent. We've seen Zuffa let people go for "attitude problems" before and Nelson doesn't always toe the company line. He's outspoken, which is part of his appeal to many including myself. If this was someone else, like a "Brendan Schaub", I couldn't see Zuffa ending it. But Roy, for some reason, it seems a possibility.
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