Brian J. D'Souza: MMA managers are not learning from boxing's past


There is a fine line in sports between business interests and entertainment interests and so far very few managers in MMA have found a way to stand up for their fighters.

Brian J. D'Souza, of Cage Potato, has written an excellent article on the importance of combat sports management and how badly MMA fighters are in need of strong guidance in today's sports climate. It's titled: Confusing the Enemy: What MMA Needs to Learn From the Precedent of Boxing. It's a fascinating piece that looks at how some key moments in the history, both of boxing and MMA, were shaped by managers who were willing to stand up for the rights of their fighters. I've quoted a few key excerpts below, but seriously, read the whole thing.

On the loss of likeness rights:

What the industry tends to ignore is that the passage of time is not what leads to progress. It was five years ago in 2008 that Jon Fitch was tossed overboard by the UFC for refusing to sign away his likeness rights away in perpetuity. While managers and fighters could have drawn a line in the sand, squared up with Zuffa and said "You've taken enough from us," their response to the likeness rights situation was completely muted.

"That wasn't a battle we chose to fight. All of our guys agreed," said American Top Team president Dan Lambert.

On the career of Cus D'Amato and how he shaped the face of boxing in the 1950's:

D'Amato had earned scorn for opposing the IBC monopoly because his tactics kept both Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres inactive or facing unranked opponents. In the end, however, he prevailed, not just in that both Patterson and Torres became champions, but because in retirement, their careers extended beyond boxing: Patterson became chairman of the NYSAC and Jose Torres a respected writer and author.

On the legacy of Fedor's Pride era manager Miro Mijatovic:

Throughout 2004, Mijatovic was part of the management team that guided Fedor to record purses ($200,000 per fight plus win bonuses) and the PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix title. When the PRIDE brass attempted to bribe Mijatovic at the end of 2004 in order to control Fedor's earnings, he refused and was dumped from Fedor's management team by Vadim Finkelstein. The rest of this story, including PRIDE's demise is, as we say, history.

And on the current struggles of Zuffa's top stars:

Today, of course, the lessons from those bygone eras of boxing have been lost on today's MMA fighters and managers. Instead of building up a fighter from the ground-level with emotional intelligence and a strong sense of self-worth, we see Ronda Rousey insecure to the point where she believed she'd be cut from her coaching gig on The Ultimate Fighter. We have Georges St-Pierre delicately trying to articulate his feelings about not being supported by Zuffa for attempting to get Johny Hendricks to go through with the VADA drug testing Hendricks had already agreed upon. We see Jon Jones being thrown under the bus by the Zuffa brass over the cancellation of UFC 151 in a way that diminished his market value by inciting the fans to further hate him.

These are just small parts of a much bigger and more nuanced look at the history of combat sport's management and the ways in which it so consistently fails fighters under the Zuffa banner, so check out the whole thing. It raises good questions on the value of sports competition and business competition for fighters. And where the ultimate value lies both as a fan and a participant between facing the very best competition and getting the best compensation for your services as an athlete.

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