By CagePotato contributor Dallas Winston
"Worlds Collide" was shaping up to be Shine Fights’ most high-profile and successful event to date — but it turned into every promoter’s worst nightmare. First, a legal injunction courtesy of Don King put the kibosh on the historic main event between Ricardo Mayorga and Din Thomas. Then, the event was canceled altogether by the North Carolina Athletic Commission when certain fighter safeguards were deemed insufficient. In the end, both fans and fighters were left demanding answers.
Though it was initially reported that Shine’s matchmaker Ron Foster would be resigning from the organization after the fiasco, that may no longer be the case. We caught up with Foster to get his take on exactly what went wrong with Worlds Collide, his current standing with the company, and how he’s been responding to the criticism.
Note: Keep in mind that Foster is only speaking from his position as matchmaker for Shine Fights, and his statements shouldn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Shine Fights as a whole.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: Let’s start with Don King. Many feel that the contractual issues that were upheld by the judge should have been foreseen and fully addressed by Shine before the main event was even advertised. What can you tell me about Shine’s response to the injunction before it was upheld? Did you feel you were fully protected by your legal team, or did you know that there was a risk his legal endeavors could jeopardize the main event?
RON FOSTER: Before we moved forward with the Mayorga thing, Shine did have lawyer look over everything to see if, legally, the fight was able to take place. A lot of money and time was put into Mayorga to get this fight to happen. I’m not so sure that [Shine Fights CEO] Devin [Price] would have taken the risk if he thought it would bite us in the butt at the end.
As far as the legal team, of course they thought it was a slam dunk on Shine’s part. But unfortunately, this time it didn’t work out in our favor. Court is like blackjack — you just never know what you are going to get.
CP: Since Mayorga was announced as a Shine acquisition way back in the 3rd quarter of 2009, there has also been a lot of speculation about the timing of the incident, and theories that Mr. King may have strategically put the legal process in motion with a timetable that would leave Shine with no time to react or find a replacement. Do you have any opinions or insight on that?
RF: I think that this was 100 percent personal. Don King is a piece of shit and has screwed people over for a living. As far as the replacement, there is no way we could have replaced Mayorga in this fight. Even if we had more time, it would have been better to just drop the fight.
CP: Devin Price made a statement in the weeks leading up to the event dismissing the threat of Don King’s legal intentions, saying: “Shine Fights has a valid and exclusive promotional contract with Ricardo Mayorga for mixed martial arts.” Since the court sided with Don King Productions, can you explain how he was able to secure the successful ruling in a way that Shine did not anticipate? From what I understand, he focused on the way that Shine was promoting Mayorga as a boxer, insisting that any and all of his drawing power was related to his boxing career. Was the majority of his success based on the way Mayorga was marketed?
RF: I can’t really talk about the entire legal part, things may still be pending.
CP: One of the main reasons that the event was canceled by the athletic commission was because of the absence of a doctor. You told MMA Weekly that you had an official doctor lined up and committed, but she just no-showed the day of the event with no notice. Have you spoken with this doctor since to get an explanation for her role in causing such a serious problem?
RF: No, I haven’t talked to the doctor at this point. There is no reason to.
CP: And the replacement doctor was found on such short notice that the commission was not able to make an approval, is that also correct?
RF: No, that is not correct — the commission said that there was not enough time to give the fighters a proper exam. My thoughts were, we lost the main event, why not upgrade one of the undercard fights up to the main to give us more time and to ensure that the doc had enough time to do everything that needs to be done? I was even willing to drop another of the amateur fights to buy even more time, but they said no.
I honestly believe it was something more, because some of the managers and corners told me that as soon as they got there and went to apply for corner license, they were told to not to waste their money. That was very strange to me, but I didn’t put two and two together until it was all over.
CP: The second element cited by the commission for the cancellation was the money for the fighters’ purses not being delivered to them in time, which you mentioned was on account of Devin Price being tied up in a Florida court with the Don King fiasco all day Saturday and Sunday. Since Devin was in court all day Friday with no clear resolution, isn’t it fair to assume that there was a reasonable chance things would not be resolved quickly, and that his court duties on Saturday would prevent him from delivering the money in time?
RF: Court went on longer than it should have because Dumb King showed up 2 ½ hours late for court. As far as the court thing goes, I guess you never know what’s going to happen. When we found out court would run over until Saturday, we were told that it should be done around 1 P.M., and that ended up not being the case.
Devin did try everything he could to ensure he was in the air on time, but he was not able to leave the courtroom in fear of being in contempt of court. We expected everything to be all wrapped up on Friday — win, lose, or draw — but it just didn’t work out that way. Devin did transfer a large amount of money to my account, but I wasn’t able to write personal checks from my account to pay the fighters. It had to be company checks.
CP: This is beyond what we get paid the big bucks for, but I’ve heard that the common practice here is to place the money in escrow. Was that something you considered or have done in any of your previous two events?
RF: This was the first time that I had heard of that. It does kind of make sense. It prevents the promoters from screwing over the fighters. In our first two shows, we paid the fighters ourselves after the event ended.
CP: Retrospectively, Travis Galbraith withdrawing from the event is now getting some attention as a sign that he and his management team foresaw some of the upcoming complications. He told MMA Junkie that he didn’t get a travel schedule until three days before the fight, and that he was only allowed one cornerman to accompany him to the fight, after originally being promised two. What is your response to these comments? Is this an accurate description of what happened with Travis?
RF: Man, everything happens for a reason. I’m not really too worried about what Travis or his managers have to say at this point. They knew I was out of the country for a large part of the time he is talking about. I had an away-message on my email with whom to call and email. If they didn’t do it, it’s on them.
Listen, I’m the match maker: I don’t book the tickets; I don’t make the travel rules. I have respect for all of the fighters, but it really rubbed me the wrong way when he kept saying, "I bet you Ninja got this," and "I bet you Ninja got that." One thing they need to remember is that Travis is not Ninja. They need to worry about their own fighter and his contract — not other fighters’ contracts.
CP: Because Shine has now not held an event since September 2009 with no confirmed date for the future, will there be any leniency granted to fighters who are “in limbo” with contracts that are exclusive in North America?
RF: Of course. I have always told the fighters if we didn’t have anything lined up for them, we don’t have an issue with them fighting for anyone — just give us a heads up. Bellator FC is the only exception.
CP: Devin Price said that the fighters would still be paid, and there is some confusion if they will be paid the full purse, or 25%. Can you expand on that, and provide an update on the status of payment being made?
RF: Shine will honor what the contract says. Some fighters have changed the percent they received on the contract when we were negotiating the contracts. This is to be taken on a case-by-case basis, and at minimum, all fighters will get what the contracts they signed says they are entitled to.
I had a fighter tell me, "Man, that contract is 18 pages! I didn’t read all of that!" That is not my fault. Blame the managers. Contracts are always written to favor the promoter, and the manager’s job is to even it out a bit to make both sides happy. Obviously, we did not expect this to happen, but you have to be prepared.
CP: You were plagued by a litany of fighter injuries that caused a lot of last minute chaos, such as Luiz “Buscape” Firmino being injured and unable to face Luiz Azeredo, and then Junior Assuncao also suffering an injury in training shortly after he was announced as Firmino’s replacement. I know that you also were presented with some unforeseen resistance and lack of cooperation from some of the MMA community in North Carolina. Can you elucidate some of the challenges and adversity that you and everyone else from Shine were battling with when putting this event together?
RF: It’s always tough matching these guys up because they train so hard and injuries can occur. That’s why my job as a matchmaker is to build as many relationships as I can to ensure quality fighters can be ready at the drop of a dime.
As far as the local promotion there, I don’t even want to give them the pleasure of saying their names. They gave me a lot of resistance, and told me, "this is our territory, and we don’t play nice with outsiders." They also told local fighters that if they fought on the show, they would be banned from fighting in their show ever again.
CP: Point blank question: how much of this unfortunate situation do you feel was directly the fault of Shine Fights, knowing that this was only the promotion’s third show, and how much of this do you feel was out of your control and handled to the best of your ability?
RF: To be 100 percent honest: I’d say 35 percent Shine’s fault. Hindsight is always 20/20, so of course there are things that we could have done differently, but we live and learn. We planned for Murphy’s Law, but didn’t realize how many areas Murphy’s Law would end up coming into play. Shine has only been around for one year and we get more press than most of the other shows in the U.S. outside of the big three (UFC, WEC, Strikeforce). That says something about what we’ve done.
Shine is growing very fast, but with that growth comes many more responsibilities. This was the worst possible thing that could’ve happened to us. The only way to go from here is up. Shine has a very bright future and this is not the end, for sure.
CP: Finally, you announced your resignation from Shine, but have now withdrawn that resignation due to your emotions getting the better of you. Tell us about your reasons for initially wanting to make a departure, but then deciding to stay on board with Shine.
RF: I said something out of frustration that should not have been said. I emailed an apology letter to fighters about the weekend, and things were there that shouldn’t have been there. Someone sent that to the media — and that’s how it all started. I don’t know what I was thinking sending that out, and again, I apologize to the Shine team for that.
I want to stay with Shine because of all of the hard work that has been put in by Devin, Dorian and I. We built this company from nothing and I want to see it be very successful. I love what I do with MMA, and I think I’m good at my job. I haven’t talked with Devin as of late, so when we talk, I will know for sure if I’m still with the team.
CP: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the MMA world before we let you go?
RF: First, I have to apologize to the fighters again, who trained so hard for this event. Second, I want to apologize to the fans that we could not make it happen — just understand that we did everything in our power make it happen.
Thanks to all of the Shine fighters who have stood behind us and supported us. Phil, Gladys, thank you guys for all your work with the media; Pete, Bennett, Brian, Ian, Steve, thanks for all your hard work too. Big thanks to our Sponsors Club: Fighters.com, Kimurawear, and Zebra Mats.