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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.