The UFC might not force fighters to take fights, but through some underhanded practices, it doesn’t make things easy for them to decline bouts under terms that fighters might not find favorable.
Does the following scenario sound familiar?
A tweet from ESPN, who is the UFC broadcast partner, appears. The tweet says UFC is “working on booking Fighter A vs. Fighter B.” Sometimes these would end with something like, “contracts not signed.”
The next step — and maybe the most influential — in this scenario is fan excitement on social media.
Somewhere between those two steps, one of those fighters — or perhaps both — wonders what the hell the UFC is doing in “announcing” a fight that isn’t official.
With fan excitement reaching a crescendo, the fighters become resigned to the fact that they will disappoint those fans if the fight falls through. It’s at this point where the fighters — who might have wanted to rework their contract, discuss a higher wage, or just wish to talk to the UFC about the booking or its date — realize fans will blame them for the fight falling through. After all, why would the UFC announce a fight that isn’t official?
With that, the fighter, again, who might not be happy about certain aspects of the deal, signs the contract to take part in the fight.
This is not a fantasy. It happens. Don’t believe me? Maybe listen to what Al Iaquinta had to say when discussing his fight against Bobby Green.
“I was kind of disappointed that they announced the fight the way that they did because they asked my manager about the fight and I was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll take the fight, but I’ve been out for a while and there’s a few things with my contract that are unclear,’” Iaquinta said on The MMA Hour. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of Sean Shelby and Hunter [Campbell] for the last week and a half, two weeks, and I haven’t really heard back from them.
“It’s just some stuff I wanted to clear up, my last fight was in Australia [against Dan Hooker at UFC 243] and there were a few things in the contract that were up in the air and we’ve just got to get that sorted out.”
“I was watching the fights on Saturday and I fell asleep watching them,” Iaquinta continued. “I woke up and looked at my phone and I had 9,000 messages — Instagram this and Twitter that. I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And then I’m seeing they announced the fight. I was like, ‘What the f—k? I haven’t signed a contract yet.’
“I hate when they do that because they’ve done this to me once before and it’s really not the right thing to do. It bothers me a lot, especially since they know I’ve been trying to get a hold of them. But I’m sure it will get taken care of.”
Whether or not it gets taken care of, the UFC pressuring fighters into taking bouts they are not ready to sign off on is just another strong-arm tactic the promotion uses to force fighters to do the bidding of the promotion.