(You got *lucky*, Soa!)
With such a volatile lineup, it was only a matter of time before names started dropping off Impact FC’s event in Sydney this weekend (which takes place Sunday afternoon local time, Saturday evening if you’re in North America). The first casualty is Bob Sapp, whose fight against Aussie UFC vet Soa Palelei has been canceled. So what the hell happened? Well…
Bob’s side of the story (via MMA Junkie): Sapp, who is currently in Bulgaria shooting that Conan the Barbarian remake, received an e-mail from Impact yesterday informing him that they wouldn’t fly him out to Sydney because the plane ticket would be too expensive. "Just like that," Sapp said. "We had all the paperwork completed." The Beast claims he had assembled a training camp in Bulgaria for the bout, and spent at least $10,000 on coaches, training partners, and living expenses. Sapp’s team plans to draft a formal letter to Impact FC asking for reimbursement of those expenses. If they don’t pay up, he’ll file a lawsuit. "I’m not going to allow anybody to screw me over," Sapp said.
Impact FC’s side of the story (via Sherdog): Impact promoter Tom Huggins says that Sapp never signed a contract, and was stalling on travel arrangements for him and two of his trainers. Said Huggins:
"For three weeks, we tried to get Bob to commit to flight dates and sign a contract. He never actually signed the contract we sent him weeks ago…We needed to have this stuff taken care of weeks ago. You get on the phone with Bob, and two hours later, nothing gets accomplished…You can’t just get three plane tickets out of Sofia, especially for Bob Sapp. He’s 350 pounds; he can’t fly coach. Getting all the right connecting flights out of Bulgaria can’t just be done last minute.
"The tickets were getting more expensive, but it was never a price issue. Bob was actually very reasonable about money. It was the logistics and time. None of this would’ve been an issue if he wasn’t in Bulgaria. That made the logistics really hard: there were major visa issues for these guys coming to Australia, they had to be consulate-issued. We just weren’t getting the help we needed from Bob to get it done properly."
A lot can happen in the next couple days, and if Impact’s Sydney card can avoid further losses, it’ll be a minor miracle. (According to this write-up on the press-conference, Paulo Filho is already acting nutty.)
Soa Palelei will still be competing at the show against another Australian UFC vet, Brad Morris; the two fighters actually made their pro debuts against each other in September 2002, with Palelei winning by TKO.