The Fight After the Fight

When an arena clears at the end of a Mixed Martial Arts event it’s often assumed the men (and/or women) whose blood and sweat still stain the canvas have finished fighting as it relates to that particular show. They typically pack up their gear, take care of on-site media obligations, and head to a hotel room to either lick their wounds or get dressed for an after-party where an entirely different sort of tongue-wagging may eventually come into play. Regardless of extra-curricular choices or the evening’s earlier result, those who entertain in the ring exit the venue with the closure of knowing they can move forward in life and onto the next opponent; that the work they’ve done will be rewarded with adulation from supporters, the personal satisfaction brought on by competition, and of course some level of financial gain.

Or so it’s assumed.

On May 15th, 2010 a show promoted by an organization known as the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts took place in Birmingham, England. The card featured a number of recognizable names, including those with Octagon experience on their resume like Seth Petruzelli, Matt Horwich, and War Machine. Petruzelli and the man once known as John Koppenhaver fared better in result than Horwich but all three spent weeks preparing in the gym with the mutual understanding BAMMA 3 would be like any other event.

On June 8th, 2010 all three men are still awaiting payment for the commitment each fulfilled. Apparently, BP isn’t the only dealer of dismay from across the pond with an element of slime involved. Money depended on for training costs, mortgages, general bills, food, family, and any other imaginable want or need remains a promise unkept, and thoughts originally turned towards a future competitor now look at an opponent possibly looming in a ring far different from any used in combat sports – a court of law.

News of the situation first came to light a week ago when Petruzelli and War Machine took to different realms of cyberspace to plead their cases. Said Petruzelli on popular MMA forum The Underground, “This is B.S! We feed our families with this money.” Meanwhile, the Ultimate Fighter Season 6 alumnus went the route of Twitter and addressed the topic in standard form, writing “Sure would be nice if BAMMA decided to FINALLY f*cking PAY US! Or maybe that’s too much to ask? WTF!? Really getting PISSED now! Contract said 72 hours…lol That’s 3 days right? Just wondering because it’s been 3 WEEKS!” He even went as far as to send a message to BAMMA’s account questioning whether or not they were going to pay or if the promotion felt they didn’t deserve their money.

In Horwich’s case, the woman he married a day after an IFL title defense (Kelly) spoke up to elaborate on the situation. “The promoter…had the balls to tell me he didn’t know we needed to be paid so urgently. People think fighters are rich and famous…they are normal people that need their money to eat too. We’re starving over here peoplel!!!!!” She also, understandably angry about things, made it clear she was thankful she and her husband hadn’t purchased a new house as they’d been considering, or else “WE WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO (HAVE) PAID THE GOD DAMN RENT!!!!!”

Fast-forward to this past Wednesday when Petruzelli stated he’d received half of his expected winnings with the remainder promised for payment later in the day while management for War Machine and Horwich, by proxy of his wife, claimed neither camp had received a dime of their purses. Hours later BAMMA apparently made good on their word to Petruzelli and War Machine, yet Horwich was left in the cold. As of Saturday, June 12th – nearly a month after the actual event – the same remains true. (UPDATE: Horwich was FINALLY paid today, a month to the day after the card’s completion.)

Unfortunately, circumstances like the above are not as uncommon as fans (and fighters) might hope nor are they limited to small shows. Far too often the men and women who sacrifice their bodies for our entertainment are victims in an industry where expectations often exceed ticket-sales and PPV buys. Quinton Jackson, among others, has spoken in the past about PRIDE shorting him and delaying payment during the promotion’s heyday. DREAM has been associated with with similar activities, most notably with current Strikeforce welterweight champ Nick Diaz after he defeated Katsuya Inoue at DREAM 3 in May 2008. The same was essentially true in the case of the mid-card fighters set to square off at Affliction III before Tom Atencio folded up shop ten days out from the event. In reality, considering the rarity of a promoter not being associated on some level with questionable financial practices, it’s really no wonder the UFC is the cream of MMA’s crop.

It’s common knowledge we live in a money-driven society where characters ranging from legitimate to downright shady will attempt to capitalize on a trend in hopes of striking it rich. As such, we have to accept the business of Mixed Martial Arts is no different, and the practice of exploiting others in hopes of turning a profit is anything but a newly invented concept. However, that’s not to say people should stand idle while athletes we respect or are personally invested in as fans pay the price after already sacrificing so much for our mere enjoyment. We need to stop focusing so much on the figures and turn our attention to whether or not a contractual agreement was actually fulfilled. When a promotion, like BAMMA, shafts a fighter you need to let your opinion be known both in written/verbal form as well as when it comes to buying future shows/tickets. Likewise, when fighters are paid on time you need to support those companies for living up to their word. Mixed Martial Artists fight for us. Now it’s our turn to fight for them.

7 COMMENTS
  • MCM says:

    All good points and a topic worthy of discussion.
    But I kinda got the impression you were making it sound like there are no good “Small” promotions out there. I’m sure that wasn’t your intent (nor was it your intent to only blame non USA based companies) and I think that it should be emphasized that with the little amount of money available in/to the fighters in smaller shows, it should be just as, if not more, important to support those that deal honestly and are acting for the betterment of the sport

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  • JTM says:

    As far as flying the flag for UK MMA goes, BAMMA have let me down before, and aren’t doing themselves or anyone else on this side of the pond any favours with this latest thing.

    I sincerely hope this issue is resolved amicably and quickly, and that Seth, War, and everyone else get their dues – it’s hard enough being a professional fighter as it is!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    I’m a huge supporter of small shows which is why I wanted to make it clear even the big boy promotions run into similar issues at times.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  • Lethal Liquid says:

    I really liked this article. Would like to see some attention go to smaller shows who are taking care of their fighters. Would also like to see a lighted shined on some of these cockroaches that run these shows and take advantage of these fighters. Let’s get names and who they’re associated with. So next time when one of these weasels shows their face fighters and fans will know to steer clear of them

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  • Dufresne says:

    I too would like to know which promotors have a reputation for this kind of thing. I know that, especially with smaller promotions, the cash flow into the company isn’t always as reliable or timely as possible and that because of this there are sometimes problems getting checks out. If that happens once in a blue moon that’s one thing. But there seem to be certain promotions that do this on a regular basis and that needs to stop.

    I don’t know if there will ever be a “fighters union” like some have called for, but there needs to be at least the equivalent of a fighter’s better business bureau to keep tabs on things like this.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  • [...] – The Fight After the Fight: BAMMA Stiffs Petruzelli, War Machine, Horwich (Five Ounces of Pain) [...]

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  • RU486 says:

    This was an excellent story, Brendan, and a side of the business we as fans rarely get to see. Let’s not forget to leave out the multitude of sour sponsorship deals that have taken the same bastardly turn. I remember hearing about the Nate Quarry incident a year or so back, that was basically a mirror image of this happening. There are a large number of MMA fans that purchase the events, whether by live gate, PPV, or video, that would be much more inclined to boycott these companies if their crappy tendencies were brought to light, much in the same way that we’d choose to buy clothing and gear from respectable businesses rather than hack companies looking to capitalize on us at our favorite fighters’ expense. I have since, never bought a single Affliction product since the Affliction III debacle, and also because I refuse to pay $60 for a friggin T-Shirt. There are plenty of deserving companies out there that have earned my dollars by adhering to good business practices and ethics. Screw BAMMA, I will make sure they never see a single dollar of mine ever again.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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