Just as the UFC couldn’t come to terms with Fedor Emelianenko partly because they wouldn’t allow him to compete in the Sambo tournaments that he periodically steamrolls through, a deal with top 10 middleweight and ATT member Denis Kang was also nixed over an equally minor request for competitive freedom. As MMAJunkie reports:
“Yes, we were (negotiating with the UFC),” Kang said. “I would have loved to fight in the UFC. I would love to fight in North America and not have to travel 12 hours for a change. At the end of the day, it came down to where I want to be represented at the moment and who was offering the best contract.”
The best contract, it seems, was one that would allow the half-Korean fighter to compete in South Korea’s SpiritMC organization on an annual basis. Kang has fought 10 times in the organization since 2004, winning all 10 fights, and is still the SpiritMC heavyweight champion.
However, the UFC requires exclusive contracts, which prohibit fighters from competing in other organizations. Such a limitation would have alienated many of Kang’s fans.
“SpiritMC was only asking that I fight for them once a year,” Kang said. “That’s one of the things that I really, really wanted to do — to keep my SpiritMC title and keep my fan base in Korea, which is really important to me.”
We’ve said it before: Now is not the time for the UFC to be stonewalling in regards to exclusivity, when their fighters are beginning to smell the money elsewhere (and specifically when there are virtually no contenders left in the UFC’s middleweight division). We understand the need for exclusive contracts — you wouldn’t want one of your stars building value for another brand, or getting injured while fighting elsewhere, or taking an image-harming loss against lesser competition. But there are exceptions where the benefits would far outweigh the costs. Even if Fedor Emelianenko were to lose in a Sambo tournament halfway around the world (an unlikely scenario to begin with), there are few American UFC fans who would see it, or care all that much, and the same goes for Denis Kang crushing cans in Korea. SpiritMC is not a competitor to the UFC; technically, Sambo isn’t even the same sport. Wouldn’t the UFC’s wisest move be to start handling these things on a case-by-case basis?