UFC, Golden Glory Should Compromise on Fighter Pay Issues

Dana White and Golden Glory's management team need to compromise on the fighter pay issue. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

A few months back, my now four-year-old son was involved in a situation. My daycare provider decided that it was time to part ways with my son and I because he was, as she put it lightly, way too hyper. Her own kids, who were roughly the same age, didn't get the memo that the average three-year-old should want to play outside, run around pretending he's Batman, and smash into random household objects. Within two days, we were standing in front of another daycare provider, a retired school teacher, who told it to me straight.

As I explained the previous situation, I hesitated when asked what the true situation was a week ago at the previous daycare provider's home. I didn't know. I didn't know whether my child was actually a wild child or the provider was looking for an easy gig in which she could simply sit my child in front of the television while she relaxed. "The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle," he stated.

The old adage applies to the spat between Golden Glory and the UFC, and the public can only decipher the situation through hearsay. Dana White claims the promotion cut Golden Glory-affiliated fighters from their roster because Golden Glory requires that fight purses be distributed to the management group first. Marloes Coenen, who recently lost her title to Miesha Tate last Saturday night at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Hendersonrefuted that claim by posting her pay stub on Twitter, which was paid directly to her. Unfortunately, the evidence provides no actual proof at all. It simply confirms that the UFC won't be paying Golden Glory. They will pay the fighters. 

The central issue, as we've been told by Dana White, lies with the state athletic commissions and their stance on fighter pay. As Nevada State Athletic Commission head Keith Kizer confirmed to BloodyElbow.com today in an email, the NSAC has a policy stating that purses are deposited into an escrow account prior to a fight, then distributed by the commission to fighters after a bout. This eliminates the possibility of corruption or tampering with fighter pay. He also referred me to an interesting bit of information within the NSAC by-laws:

An athlete can have his or her management share (not to exceed 33 1/3%) directly paid by the promoter to the manager, if the manager is licensed and we have a copy of the valid management agreement.

While that fact might lead one to believe Dana White lied, the Illinois Athletic Commission doesn't have a policy in place for escrow deposits of fight purses, or a clause for management payment. No surprise there if you are a native of the great state of Illinois. The UFC still paid the fighter directly however.

The mystery lies in the extreme consequences handed out by the UFC. Golden Glory had four fighters released from Strikeforce because, according to Dana White, they wouldn't adhere to the commission by-laws. Maybe I'm missing something here, but the payment directly to a fighter isn't a guideline in most states. It's a requirement that Golden Glory has no control over whatsoever. While the UFC did pay Golden Glory in some instances in states that didn't mandate the payment process via escrow, moving away from such dealings is the logical step.

Nevada has options for fighters however. A fighter can have a percentage of their purse directly deducted from their purse to management, which is a logical solution to the problem. A manager can't skim anything off the top if the commission is controlling the payout, and it still limits corruption from occurring since the commission has a grasp of the money before a bout goes down.

What's the problem with that? It is reasonable to believe that there are some athletic commissions who don't allow that type of complexity to the pay structure. Some states may allow it, others may have not have even thought about it. The solution, similar to the truth, is in the middle.

For the purpose of helping fighters evade higher tax brackets, this probably isn't the solution Golden Glory was hoping to hear. But it is a solution nonetheless. Golden Glory should adhere to the commission by-laws. They aren't guidelines. They are rules that must be followed, and for the management team at Golden Glory to try to circumvent those rules and ask the UFC to pay fighters through Golden Glory's management team is absurd. There are reasons these laws are in place.

The UFC shouldn't take a general stance on the matter however. If Marloes Coenen wants 33 1/3% of her purse taken out and paid directly to her manager when she fights in Nevada, work it into the contract and allow it to happen. In other states, the commission, or UFC depending on the state, pays the entire purse directly to the fighter. Obviously, the fighter may be subjected to higher taxes. Too bad. Those are the rules in place.

I won't dismiss the fact that this debacle reeks of a preemptive strike by Dana White to assert his dominance over anyone trying to get special treatment. Golden Glory is no exception, and I imagine the negotiations with Alistair Overeem played into his decision. Furthermore, the whole Golden Glory-Alistair Overeem marriage probably sounds like a rising star in the sport of manager-fighter relations with M-1 Global-Fedor Emelianenko serving as the reigning champion. We all know how Dana White feels about that situation.

I'd be blind to believe Golden Glory won't try to rectify this situation quickly. The fact of the matter is that fans aren't clamoring to watch Overeem battle Cole Konrad, Neil Grove, or Fedor Emelianenko at this point. Most fans want to see Overeem battle the UFC's top heavyweights to prove his worth. The UFC is correct in their thinking. No management group should be paid directly. It should be handled through a third party, even if it is in order to help Coenen, Overeem, and company avoid being taxed heavily for their fight purses. Compromise is the answer here, not an broad banning of the practice. After all, it is allowed in some states. Work out a deal so that fans can enjoy some of the talents that Golden Glory has to offer the MMA world.

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