OAKLAND CA - AUGUST 07: Junior dos Santos punches Roy Nelson (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Roy Nelson thought he could just put his fingers in his ears, whistling all the while, and watch his problems disappear. The UFC, apparently, thought the same thing. It turns out, in the real world, that some problems aren't so easily solved.
Nelson, it seems, signed a contract with Roy Jones and his Squared Ring Promotions that allowed the promoter first negotiation rights, and in certain circumstances, the right to match any offers the fighter received from outside the promotion. Square Ring alleges that Nelson was made aware of his responsibilities and that Zuffa Vice President Marc Ratner was also informed that Nelson had a preexisting contract with Jones. Zuffa signed him anyway for The Ultimate Fighter. And even after being sued, continued to promote him. Now it appears that lawyers may have finally slowed Dana White down, convincing him to put the rotund fighter on ice so long as litigation is ongoing. White says he didn't have much choice in the matter:
"These guys go out and sign with these rinky-dink little promotion companies and sign these bad contracts, and let's just say Roy Nelson is involved in a bad contract right now that he had before," White said. "There's a couple of different organizations out there that do it."
Yesterday Nelson talked to MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani about his contract cluster and was surprisingly nonchalant:
"As far as I know, I'm fighting in 2011," Nelson said... Nelson "believes" he's being sued along with Zuffa for breach of contract. However, he feels he doesn't owe any fights to Square Ring as the promotion has not promoted a second MMA card since "March Badness."
"I guess from a lawyer's stand point or even a jury's stand point, I think it's kind of hard to say if you have any claims if you've never put on another MMA event ever in your whole entire life that I know of."
It's a strange claim for Nelson to make and for MMA Fighting to repeat. Square Ring promoted another MMA card later that year, a card Nelson reportedly served as a consulting matchmaker for. One week later he was filming The Ultimate Fighter.
There's an important lesson here - fighters have to be very careful about everything they sign. Nelson represents himself, and when dealing with billion dollar companies and boxing sharks, that's a bad thing. Right now Dave Herman is trying to walk the same road. That's what helps create bad situations. I know it's hard to watch that percentage of your hard earned income go out the door to your lawyer or manager. But, it's their job to protect you. You wouldn't let them in the cage to fight your fights - and you don't belong in the boardroom trying to fight theirs.