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Money at the Heart of the ADCC Bravo vs Gracie Rematch Problems

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a story on the unsurprising possibility that the ADCC Royler Gracie vs Eddie Bravo rematch was in jeopardy. Eddie Bravo posted his take on the situation on his 10th Planet website forums including information on what Gracie was asking for that Bravo got from speaking with ADCC Vice President Guy Neivens:

I just got off the phone with vice president of ADCC Guy Nievens [sic] and he told me that Royler just called him and is now asking for 50k just to show up plus the 25k win bonus.


ADCC is refusing to pay the 50k show money.

I hadn't thought about it at the time, but why would the VP of ADCC be telling Bravo what his opponent was negotiating for the rematch? Royler Gracie has some ideas as he's finally addressed the situation through a new blog entry posted on his official website on Saturday (emphasis mine):

Here is the truth regarding my potential participation in an ADCC Super Fight.

I received a call from my cousin, Renzo, who told me that ADCC was interested in having me participate in their September event. I told him that it would be a pleasure for me to once again compete for the ADCC organization. Renzo said that ADCC Vice President Guy Nievens [sic] would contact me to negotiate the terms of my contract, including the purse for the match. The following day, the ADCC website reported the match and several media outlets contacted me. I stated that it would be great to once again train hard for a grappling match and that I was confident that we would be able to enter into a contract. At that point no details had been discussed nor had I even spoken with anyone from the ADCC organization regarding this match.

Guy Nievens called me several days later to negotiate the contract terms for the match. In my experience, these negotiations are always confidential. The very next day, I was shocked to learn that Mr. Nievens had disclosed certain details of our conversation to the public. Perhaps Mr. Nievens was attempting to trick me into entering into an unfair contract? Regardless of his motivation, it is deplorable that someone working for Sheik Tahnoon would, in my opinion, behave in such an unethical, unprofessional and disrespectful manner.

The Sheik is a distinguished man who has been instrumental in the growth of submission wrestling throughout the world. Mr. Nievens' actions show, in my opinion, an inability to perform his duties as VP of ADCC and unworthiness to represent the Sheik.

Some might argue Neivens speaking with Bravo about Gracie isn't the same as publicly broadcasting their (Gracie and Neivens) contract discussion but even talking to Bravo about Gracie's contract negotiation -- which most would agree should be confidential in nature -- is something that shouldn't be done.

I asked Guy Neivens yesterday if he would respond to Gracie's words and a few hours later I was directed to an official statement Guy had written on the ADCC website (emphasis mine):

Royler is a true champion of ADCC with an unbeaten three world titles to his name, a true legend.

ADCC goal since 1998 has been to promote Submission Fighting worldwide, having success now with Federations in more than fifty countries. A few months ago ADCC committee decided it would generate more interest in the sport to promote some veteran matches- Renzo Gracie and Mario Sperry is now confirmed, and the idea of a rematch between Royler Gracie and Eddie Bravo seemed a natural re-match.

ADCC secured sponsorship for the prize money for each fight $25000 however, it turned out Royler wanted $50000 just to appear plus the $25000 if he won, that would be $75000 for a senior grappling match! ADCC attempted to secure more sponsorship, until now with no success. Thereafter it was decided that we cannot offer more to veterans than we do to our current superfight contenders Jacarre and Braulio.

It should be noted ADCC is a non-profit making organization with the sole intent to make it a worldwide sport. However we would love to still see this fight go ahead.

Both Royler who has competed three times and thousands of other fighters who have competed in ADCC are aware there has never been any contract between ADCC and any fighter, it is a tournament attended by invitation or qualification. ADCC will continue to promote the sport of submission fighting with the aim getting the respect and support it surely deserves.

Guy Neivens

So apparently there is no contract to compete in ADCC, even a super fight which I admit I found odd at first, until Bravo confirmed the ADCC setup in an interview he did with Cage Potato:

... he [Gracie] was talking about the match for five days, he did a bunch of interviews and then all of a sudden he wants $50,000 to compete. Guy Neivens, the Sheikh's right-hand man actually called me up two days before Royler told him he wanted the 50 grand to tell me something fishy was going on. He said, "Royler's up to something here. In an interview he did, he said he accepted the match but the contracts hadn't been signed yet. I don't know what he's talking about because there's never been a contract signed in the history of Abu Dhabi. You just get the invitation and you go. There are no negotiations."

There's never been a contract in Abu Dhabi, ever. No one has ever signed a contract.  You just thank the guy who created this and who made it possible for you to be paid cash for jiu-jitsu. You accept it, you bow down and you give respect. You  don't have a contract. You don't negotiate. No one's ever done that. The fact that he mentioned contracts in one of his interviews made everyone suspicious that he was going to try to pull something. Guy thought it was weird. The Sheikh thought it was weird. Then two days later he called and said he wanted $50,000 to show PLUS the $25,000 win money. The Sheikh was offended and insulted that he did that and he basically said, "No. It's not going to happen that way."

Uhh oh. Let's switch back to Gracie's blog where he tries to justify his asking price:

Everyone knows that I am a fighter. I have never shied away from a challenge. Since I was 6 years old, I have fought hundreds of matches for free, just for the love of the sport. I have fought under sport jiu-jitsu rules, judo rules, submission wrestling rules, MMA rules and many times without any rules.

I have faced opponents sometimes twice my size. Cowardice is not a word in mine or my family's vocabulary. Throughout my almost 40 year career, I achieved the pinnacle of my sport, including seven world titles.

When fighting in a professional event, after years of dedication, it is only fair and appropriate for me to ask for a reasonable purse that reflects my successful career in the ring and my unimpeachable conduct as a professional athlete.

Everyone who knows me understands that I will show up to any event well prepared. This entails me having to stop teaching classes and seminars for approximately two months with great financial cost to my family and me.

All I am asking is for the ADCC organization to cover these expenses.

I am still confident that the Abu Dhabi organization will treat me with the respect that I have earned and will come through with this match in the name of all our loyal fans and supporters.

Royler Gracie

It's hard to argue against this. Gracie has given a lot to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Submission Grappling and MMA and even achieved success in all of them. While he's not generated the widespread fame and notoriety of the likes of Royce, Rickson and Renzo Gracie he's not just living off of the Gracie name to make money either. He's a multiple world champion after all.

Both Bravo and Gracie deserve to get paid as by ADCC's own admission it's a match that will generate interest in the sport, but really it's a match that will generate interest in their event this September in Nottingham, England. ADCC claims to be a non-profit organisation and say they can not get the sponsorship money together for Royler's asking price, but ADCC is also owned and founded by Sheik Tahnoon - one of the richest men in the world who through Flash Entertainment Group has a 10% share in Zuffa, LLC and was able to purpose build an outdoors arena for UFC's show in Abu Dhabi last year and have it torn down not long afterwards. Having trouble getting sponsorship doesn't ring true with me.

Gracie could be asking for too much but he's certainly achieved enough in his career to test the waters for his purse, and Eddie Bravo similarly based on his brand and celebrity can do something similar with an organisation we know could cover the cost at no negative long, medium or short term impact. Let's not forget this non-profit organisation is still going to be selling tickets for attendance, Online Pay Per View live streams as well as copies of the eventual DVD, sales of which can all bolstered by securing Bravo vs Gracie 2. The problem in doing so would be every other competitor at ADCC demanding more but that's the nature of the beast. If ADCC want to be the biggest No Gi competition in the world and to grow the sport the purses are eventually going to have to be brought up to par with the prestige.

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