It almost seemed like a joke at the time. Shortly after defeating Casey Kenney via split decision on the undercard of UFC 259, former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz wrapped up his post-fight interview with a call-out nobody saw coming.
“A guy named Hans Molenkamp has been holding a lot of fighters hostage, saying he’s an awesome pro fighter and picking his fight,” Cruz told UFC broadcasters after his win, suggesting the Monster Energy brand development rep meet him for a charity bout. “How about we do something for charity? He’s got a 100-pound advantage. I think we can put on a show with a lot of money.”
Cruz later explained his actions, accusing Molenkamp of threatening to kill fighters’ sponsorship deals with the energy drink if they didn’t engage with his personal social media pages, including posing for photos and posting comments on his Instagram posts. Fellow former champ Michael Bisping backed up Cruz’s allegations, suggesting that his own deal with Monster Energy was promptly killed after he told Molenkamp they weren’t “friends.”
If that kind of petty strong-arming seems too absurd to be believed of a major sponsorship brand associated not just with MMA, but multiple sports across the US, a man claiming to be a former contractor who says he worked closely with Molenkamp for years has decided to share his own experiences. And it seems that his time working with Monster under Molenkamp’s direction closely mirrors the experiences of the fighters coming forward.
Photographer Courtney ‘Hendo’ Henderson recently dropped a lengthy interview on his personal YouTube page, titled ‘The Untold Truth: Exposing Hans Molenkamp.’ In it, Henderson explained how he first met Molenkamp, while honing his craft, taking pictures over at Alliance MMA. That meeting led to what he described as a very well paying opportunity to work as an official photographer for Monster Energy. A post that eventually resulted in him mostly following Molenkamp around to create content for his personal social media brand.
“He has supporters, but you gotta understand the way he’s marketing himself. So, what he does—he’ll go to, like, online. If you look at his social media page or Instagram page, he’s the cool guy, the fun guy. He’s around all these elite fighters, you know. He’s the cool guy” Henderson said, speaking of the intense investment Molenkamp apparently puts in his social media brand. “But behind the scenes, these guys are forced to interact with him. They’re forced to do all the antics, do the ‘Monster hand’ – get the Monster can kicked out of their hand – do all this stupid, funny stuff, these crazy videos. They’re forced to do that. But, if they don’t do that, then what will happen is they lose their contract. They’re pretty much held hostage.”
“You gotta understand what he’s doing. It’s not Monster, it’s Hans Molenkamp. So what he’s doing is, he’s forcing these fighters to do antics. Like, I witnessed it all the time. Every fighter that you see under their roster, they’re forced to spar with him, act like he’s beating them up, do mitts. They’re forced to do that. It could be a BJJ – somebody who’s the best in the world at what they do – and he’s forcing you to act like he’s tapping you out, act like he has a black belt. All this—bro, everything you see is all a facade.
“Everything is fake. Everything,” Henderson added. “I’m talking about, like, he would douse himself with water before he’d do mitts with fighters for his social media content—like he made a video for social media. So he’ll act like he put water all over, and then act like he’s sweating. And then he’ll go do mitts with a high ranking UFC fighter and act like he’s beating them up or something, or whatever it is. But for me, like I said, I witnessed it all the time. He’s not really doing it for Monster, he’s doing it to boost his clout to his Instagram followers, to market himself. And I don’t understand that. They’re forced to do it. Like I said, if they don’t do it then they’ll lose their contract.”
Eventually, Henderson said he had enough of Molenkamp’s constant demands and quit the job. A move he said resulted in Molenkamp effectively blackballing him from the MMA industry; telling fighters and gyms that if they worked with Henderson they would lose their contracts with Monster Energy.
Those contracts? While Henderson couldn’t provide exact numbers as to what Monster spends on sponsoring organizations like the UFC, Bellator, and Glory Kickboxing, he suggested that the numbers are into the millions of dollars. For individual fighters, their contracts with Monster can apparently earn them $5,000 to $10,000 a month. The kind of money that many pro athletes in MMA just couldn’t afford to lose.
“The situation is Monster is pumping millions and millions and millions of dollars into these organizations,” Henderson revealed. “They’re giving the UFC millions, they’re giving Bellator millions. These contracts are millions. I can’t disclose how much money it is, but let me tell you, it’s a lot of money. A LOT of money. And like I said, not just the UFC and Bellator, you got Glory. So they’re controlling a whole market. A whole market is controlled by one person, the director of Monster Energy for combat sports, Hans Molenkamp. He’s managing that sector, so he has control of a whole industry, plus the fighters. Essentially, these checks are so powerful, that money is so powerful, he has control over everybody. So, he dictates what’s going on in that industry, by the money.”
With news that Monster Energy is now looking into the situation, Henderson also claimed that this isn’t the first time Monster has investigated Molenkamp’s behavior. The big difference now seems to be that instead of airing his grievances privately, with the company, Dominick Cruz decided to make them public.
“But, like I said before, he holds—these people are making so much money, and they need this money, they can’t speak out,” Henderson said, after explaining that he believes the entire MMA industry knows of Molenkamp’s behavior already. “They can’t say anything. They’re forced to be quiet. And I will go even a step further. All these allegations came out with Dominick Cruz and everything like that, now I can guarantee you what’s going to happen is, he’s going to contact everybody that’s on the Monster roster, or whoever’s in connection with him, and he’s gonna force them to be like, ‘Okay, yeah Hans does this, Hans is a good guy. Hans treats me really good.’ Watch, I’m trying to tell you guys, watch, you’re going to see a lot of people be like, ‘Oh yeah, Hans is a good guy. He’s a good guy.’
“This is not the first investigation, just to let you know. There’s been multiple, two or three, investigations, just like what’s going on now. There’s been multiple investigations on Hans Molenkamp, with Monster, from fighters coming to Monster and saying he’s treating them this way. Dominick Cruz is just the first person to go public with it. Because he took that chance, for everybody else.”