Lowen Tynanes has made a name for himself recently as one of the top prospects in the sport. After going unbeaten in the amateur circuit, the state wrestling champ burst out of the Asian scene by stopping Filipino URCC champ, Eduard Folayang in just his second MMA bout. He immediately followed up with three equally impressive wins, which included finishes against more experienced stars such as Vuyisile Colossa and Felipe Enomoto.
The Hawaiian had 4 massive wins in a span of 6 months, where he claimed a KOTC title and established himself atop the ONE FC lightweight ladder, all before his 23rd birthday. People were expecting big things from Tynanes, but suddenly this prodigy's very active calendar became stagnant. He hasn't competed since May 2013, and the reason behind it is a contract dispute with KOTC.
This wouldn't be your average dispute either, as Tynanes claims that he never signed a contract with the promotion, alleging that King of the Cage is forcing him to honor a 3-year contract with his forged signature.
Tynanes had fought with KOTC as an amateur, and it was from those connections that got him separate deals with Asian promotions such as URCC and ONE FC.
"I originally signed a 6-fight deal with ONE FC over 2 years, which my coach Kai Kamaka and KOTC owner Terry Trebilcock set up." Tynanes told Bloody Elbow as he spoke about his situation, "Me not knowing how close they really were was naive!"
"I was offered a title fight by Terry and immediately took it. I was not thinking of pay or opponent, (nor did I) think my coach would handle things like he did, because I trusted him," Tynanes explains, "After winning that bout, I got paid 1000 to fight and 1000 to win. For a KOTC title fight, I felt like I got ripped off, so I told Kai 'I don't want to compete for KOTC, they're cheap'."
"Out of thin air, KOTC sends me emails and text messages telling me I'm obligated to KOTC with contract, and I need to compete. Me not knowing, I was kinda laughing because they sounded silly," he recalls, "They then sent me a copy of the contract that looks nothing like my signature, telling me 'We have you for three years. We have first rights over you and ONE FC can't do anything unless KOTC says so'."
"I feel violated and hopeless trying to find an attorney that wants to go to war with me. I haven't heard anything from ONE FC yet but I don't think I will be competing anytime soon"
Bloody Elbow has since obtained copies of the said contracts and the signatures clearly aren't the same. Here's a photo of Tynanes' actual signature from ONE FC:
Compared to a snapshot from the KOTC contract with the signature in question:
Being stuck for three years in a contract he did not sign, Tynanes has been trying to seek legal counsel to try and get out of this bind, but to no avail.
"When I told my attorney the situation, he sent KOTC a letter asking to be released due to a false contract or we will be forced to sue them for forgery. They didn't reply with care, simply stating they have full rights no matter what." Tynanes explains, "KOTC simply won't budge. They don't feel threatened enough to do anything. That is why I am on the bench"
Despite fighting professionally for the promotion once, Tynanes maintains he never signed any deals with KOTC. He also states that he has also severed ties with his coach, after feeling that both Kamaka and KOTC were involved with the 3-year contract which was set up without his consent.
"I have never signed anything with KOTC! I got offered the title fight, fought, and then they tried to make me fight again but I refused," Tynanes states, "Honestly, I don't know who signed the contract with KOTC, but I'm being punished for it. Terry and Kai were working together, and they worked out something behind my back, but I'm 1000% sure I didn't sign anything with them. I was set up in a bad way."
"Also that is highly possible that things were set up before hand. KOTC owner Terry and my coach Kai Kamaka are really close"
Documents obtained show that the disputed contract was signed on December 12, 2012, and was indeed set up long before his lone KOTC bout on April 11, 2013. It also predates the ONE FC contract he did personally sign on December 21, 2012.
"I am no longer with that coach Kai Kamaka. I got away from him after finding out everything," Tynanes said, "I haven't talked to him, but my father and his attorney has, and he says he has no clue about anything."
This is where statements clash. Bloody Elbow has contacted KOTC about the issue, and officials claim that it was Kamaka who signed for Tynanes.
"On January 15, 2014, Lowen made a statement on his Twitter account that 'KOTC forged a contract with my signature...' This was the first that we had heard of this claim and we immediately investigated," said Bobby Burguland, the KOTC attorney and VP of Marketing, "It was at this time that we learned that Kai Kamaka, Lowen's manager/trainer at the time, had actually signed Lowen's name to the KOTC contract. Kai maintains that he acted with Lowen's permission."
In multiple statements sent to Bloody Elbow, KOTC officials acknowledged that they already know that the signature was forged, but they will still hold Tynanes to it.
"From a legal perspective, our position is that although Lowen did not actually sign the KOTC contract, whether or not he disputes that Kai had permission to sign his name, he began performance on the contract and as a result accepted its terms," Burgland continued, "He also acknowledges the KOTC contract when he signed the ONE FC contract, which he also began performance on."
Burgland also stated they've reached out to Tynanes' former manager, Jason House in an attempt to "get Lowen back in the cage ASAP". They claim to have offered to "significantly reduce the duration of the current contract", however, discussions never amounted to anything as House had ceased to represent Tynanes.
KOTC founder Terry Trebilcock also weighed in as he spoke about the situation.
"The story Lowen's father would like to tell you is that Lowen is a victim," Terry Trebilcock states, "They claim that his manager and trainer Kai Kamaka of the 808 fight factory signed the KOTC contract, on his behalf, so they feel they are not obligated to fulfill it"
"What they don't tell you is: 1. Lowen has followed and competed under the terms of the contract, as if the contract was enforceable, and 2. Not only did Lowen acknowledge the KOTC contract (in his ONE FC contract) but he signed and reaffirmed with his initials that he understood he was presently under a three year contract with King of the Cage"
"KOTC will at all cost continue to exercise its rights that Lowen has signed and initialed for more than once," Trebilcock said.
The initials mentioned by both officials is next to a clause on the very end of Tynanes' long contract from ONE FC.
The hand written clause on the bottom of the contract states that "By signing this agreement, ONE FC understands that in no way does this diminish or make null and void any of my obligations or rights I have already granted to King of the Cage Inc. (In deference to my 3 year contract that expires in 2015)"
Right on the bottom is an 'X' mark signifying where Lowen Tynanes was to scribble his initials, "LT", at the time the deal was signed. The same marks are seen at the end of every page of ONE FC's 25-page fighter agreement contract.
As it stands, both contracts state that while the ONE FC agreement is an exclusive deal in a sense, KOTC's non-exclusive contract that predates it still has priority in fight bookings. This leaves Tynanes in a bind, and KOTC is looking to have him complete for them again before he can even be offered another fight with other promotions like ONE FC.
"The plan was for KOTC and ONE FC to work together, and for Lowen to fight regularly for us both. His next fight was supposed to be with KOTC following his 5/31/13 ONE FC fight," KOTC's Berglund said, "I think ONE FC agrees that his next fight should be with KOTC. Once that is completed, I am certain they will immediately schedule him."
If Tynanes' disputed KOTC contract is followed, he will be under contract up to December 2015.
Follow me on twitter -- @antontabuena