Unbeknownst to most, Ben Nguyen had a lot on the line in his last fight.
His bout at UFC Fight Night 101 with Geane Herrera marked the last fight of his current UFC deal. Afterwards, he became a free agent. Nguyen comfortably won the decision, but had he lost, he would have been on a two-fight skid, a position no fighter wants to ever be in, especially following the expiration of a contract. Heading into the Melbourne event, the 28-year-old expected that his career inside the Octagon was at stake.
“I really wanted to make a statement, and I felt like I was fighting to keep my job,” Nguyen told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus.
The UFC was clearly impressed, as the organization was interested in re-signing him. Nguyen agreed to a new four-fight deal with the UFC at the end of December, about a month after the Herrera fight, and signed the dotted line on Jan. 4.
Nguyen did not have too many troubles signing a new deal with the organization, despite the fact that the new owners of the UFC have been very quiet since the sale in July 2016. He’s arguably in the minority, as there are a few free agents struggling to even get hold of the organization’s matchmakers to start negotiations.
That said, it did take some work. He wasn’t initially finding success during talks with the UFC, so Nguyen hired a manager to help him.
“We had a chat with [the UFC], and they threw us an offer that we weren’t really particularly happy with,” Nguyen said. “I had kind of asked around — I reached out to Cung Le, actually. And he was like, ‘Hey, I’ll look around. You obviously need a proper manager.’ Before, I was having my friend who sells real estate kind of just chat to the UFC. But that wasn’t his full-time gig. Cung Le, he was able to hook me up with Jason House from Iridium Sports Agency. [House] pretty much took it from there. I got hold of him, and he was just really excited to work with me. I could have shopped around for managers and stuff, but I just had a good feeling about him. He negotiated me a pretty solid deal.
“He got the new contract within the next two, three hours. I’m pretty happy with that. I guess you could say it was pretty smooth. He was able to make it happen with the wave of his wand, like a magician almost. I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve known each other for three hours and you’ve already negotiated my contract. Alright, sweet.’”
House is Nguyen’s first true manager, and the flyweight fighter expects working with House on a daily basis will help launch his fighting career to the next level. It’ll take a lot of work off his shoulders, and he’ll be able to focus more on training and improving his skills.
“(It’s) huge,” he said. “I felt like I was doing a lot of work myself. And it really helps to have someone that not only is negotiating, but he’s a lawyer, as well, so he can look through the contract and spot things out. He’s known in the business. Everyone knows who Jason House is. He works with a lot of top guys, and he talks to the matchmaker every day. And that’s his full-time job, so I don’t have to wait for a buddy of mine to get off work to make a phone call.”
2016 was the year of the free agents. Numerous fighters — including a handful of top names — decided to fight out their contracts to test their worth and see what was available to them outside of the UFC. Nguyen didn’t want to be one of those fighters to go the free agency route, however.
“I stuck with the UFC — I always wanted to be with the UFC. Everyone knows what the UFC is. I felt like staying with the UFC was the right call,” he said.
With the new contract in place, the Sioux Falls native expects to be more calm in his next fight. He won’t be concerned about keeping his job, as he’s back on track and has three or four more fights until he has to think about re-signing with the organization again.
“I just feel like my next fight is going to be a lot more relaxed, I can finally loosen up a little bit, and kind of have fun,” he said. “I’m on the cusp of fighter stress, at the top, and I’m working my way down where my stress levels are lower.”