Report: Sokoudjou deal with EliteXC falls through

Wow, it’s a busy news day in MMA today.

The latest breaking story pertains to Rameua Thierry Sokoudjou and EliteXC. In a yet to be published story attributed to Todd Martin by WrestlingObserver.com, Martin will be reporting in a story that will appear on SI.com later that EliteXC president Gary Shaw has indicated that talks with Sokoudjou have broken off and that the former Pride fighter could be heading to K-1.

Martin writes for both SI.com and the Wrestling Observer. The report is not yet available, but Observer publisher/editor Dave Meltzer makes the following claim:

After the deal had been just about finalized, negotiations fell apart between Gary Shaw of EXC and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. According to Shaw in an interview not yet published by Todd Martin for Sports Illustrated’s web site, Sokoudjou is expected to sign with Hero’s.

Sherdog.com originally reported that Sokoudjou had received a contract offer from EliteXC that his camp was favorable towards and that a deal was on the verge of being worked out. When I spoke with Gary Shaw a few days ago he informed me that Sokoudjou had not yet in fact signed his deal but that both parties had entered final negotiations. While speaking with Shaw, he expressed no concern that the deal wouldn’t get done leading me to believe things just recently fell a part.

Also, when I had interviewed Sokoudjou a few weeks ago he indicated that he was still under contract to Pride for two fights even though he was talking to other promotions. Then, during a conference call leading up to UFC 73 I asked Dana White about why fighters signed to Pride were talking to other promotions and why they were being signed to new deals in the UFC. White claimed that fighters signed to Pride were also contractually bound to the new company Pride World Widewide holdings and that while they had to sign a new deal to fight for the UFC, they couldn’t fight for anyone else.

White’s comment raised the question about how Sokoudjou could negotiate with other companies even though he still owed Pride two more fights of a contract White indirectly claimed was valid with the new ownership.

There are two possible explanations. One, that Sokoudjou is indeed still contracted to Pride but that he’s allowed to talk to other promotions because he may or may not have a non-exclusive deal.

Or, the contracts might have been transferable from DSE to Pride Worldwide, but only with consent.

It does appear that the contract of at least some fighters are not transferable without consent. Josh Barnett secured his release this weekend but he didn’t secure it from Zuffa or the new Pride Worldwide, but from the former parent company of Pride, Dream Stage Entertainment. When speaking with Denis Kang, he said to his knowledge that the contracts were transferable but that a fighter had to sign a letter of consent before the contract could be transfered to Zuffa.

The web site FightHype.com is also reporting that Sokoudjou has “secured his release from UFC/Pride” and that he contacted the site to let them know he is officially a “free agent.”

It’s interesting that for months we didn’t hear anything about the contracts in Pride and now we’re not only hearing about the contracts, we’re seeing fighters on the verge of signing deals. Some with the UFC, some not. My guess is that the fighters were possibly patient for a few months but once rent and mortgage payments were due they needed to fight so they could get paid.

Another major plot detail stemming from this news that can’t be overlooked is that K-1 apparently is making a major play to sign former talent that had been associated with Pride. In addition to the report about Sokoudjou, the web site Kakuto.com reported earlier this week that Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi was going to sign with K-1 Hero’s. Kang also confirmed to me that he’s been contacted by K-1 and I know for a fact that K-1 has also contacted Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko.

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