(Photo courtesy of ryanmcfadden.com)
Yeah, about that Fitch/Gono fight: It’s not going to happen because Jon Fitch, the UFC’s former #1 welterweight contender, and one of only three fighters to ever achieve eight consecutive wins inside the Octagon (the other two being Royce Gracie and Anderson Silva), has been fired. MMA Mania breaks it:
Jon Fitch was today handed his walking papers for refusing to sign an agreement that would give the promotion exclusive lifetime video game rights to his name and likeness…
Christian Wellisch — who also didn’t ink the paperwork — was also released. Others who do not sign the agreement could also be let go in the future…
Fitch was apparently approached about the issue when he turned in his signed bout agreement to fight Akihiro Gono at UFC 94: “St. Pierre vs. Penn 2? on January 31. And when he and his representatives attempted to negotiate the video game deal it was all or nothing. He didn’t sign it and was terminated shortly therefafter.
Give us the exclusive right to use you in video games forever, or you’re fired. Let that sink in for a moment. Wellisch may not have been going anywhere in the UFC’s heavyweight division, but Fitch is a top-five welterweight — an enormous asset for any MMA organization — and to drop him over something so ultimately trivial is pure insanity.
Kevin Iole adds that Dana White no longer wants to work with American Kickboxing Academy fighters or anyone represented by DeWayne Zinkin and Bob Cook, which includes Josh Koscheck and Cain Velasquez:
“We’re looking for guys who want to work with us and not against us, and frankly I’m just so [expletive] sick of this [expletive] it’s not even funny,” White said from Honolulu, where he flew Wednesday from Toronto to hold a news conference to announce the B.J. Penn-Georges St. Pierre fight for UFC 94 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas.
“Affliction is still out there trying to build its company. Let [Fitch] go work with them. Let him see what he thinks of those [expletives]. [Expletive] him. These guys aren’t partners with us. [Expletive] them. All of them, every last [expletive] one of them.”
[Cain] Velasquez, one of the sport’s rising stars, clearly is on the outs with White. White said Zinkin wanted standard language that is part of every UFC fighter’s contract removed from Velasquez’s deal.
“Can you believe that?” White said. “Chuck Liddell has that language in his contract. Randy Couture has it. Anderson Silva has it. And Cain [expletive] Velasquez, with two [expletive] fights, wants us to change it for him? That’s [expletive] nuts. He can get the [expletive] out.
“I’m not a douche bag and I do a lot for these guys, a lot more than any of you will ever know. We’re in a horrible time in the economy now, and every guy with two nickels to rub together is making a run at us. We’ve worked too hard, given too much, to let certain guys come in and [expletive] with that.”
While he acknowledges that it’s unlikely another company would want to put him in a video game in the future, Jon Fitch didn’t feel comfortable with signing away the rights to his likeness forever:
“Working for free and selling our rights away for lifetime, that’s a little different. We tried to negotiate five- or 10-year deals with them, but it wasn’t good enough. It was all or nothing. He wanted our lifetime. He wanted our souls forever…
He wanted us to sign [a previous] merchandising agreement, and it was not a very good agreement. There was not really a reason for us to sign it. The first thing they brought to us was for us to sign all of our rights away for everything forever. It was for very small compensation, and there was no compensation for family members if we were to die. We could die and they could make memorial figurines and stuff and make thousands, millions of dollars, and our families wouldn’t see a penny of it. The way they bring the contracts and stuff to us, I don’t know, it’s just not how business is done.”
Fitch added that the UFC “has taken care of me and you’ve never heard me complain about money. This is a respect thing…I’d only like a little bit of respect for the blood I shed for this company.”
Respect — the same concept that led to Randy Couture’s year-long exodus from the sport. It seems that it’s still in short supply in the UFC, though Dana White still places the blame for this fiasco solely on the AKA fighters’ management. As he said last night on The Carmichael Dave Show in Sacaramento:
“It has nothing to do with an agreement. It doesn’t have to do with Jon Fitch either. I like Jon Fitch. I’ve never had a bad word with Jon Fitch. The problem is with the idiots that run AKA. I won’t use any names; the idiots know who they are…
I’m trying to run a business — bro, I live on a plane 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s all I do is fly everywhere to try to build this company. And these guys think this thing is so big and these guys start negotiating all this stupid stuff like they’re Mel Gibson…
Listen, this is just like any other job. You don’t want to work for me? They’re plenty of other opportunities out there. The t-shirt guys are trying to start their own business. Get in business with them. Do it with somebody else. If you don’t want to be in business with me? Then you don’t have to be in business with me. It’s simple as that.”
Now is not the best time for a fighter to be unemployed and on the outs with Zuffa. Will this kind of exploitative pressure be standard operating procedure for the UFC as their competition continues to die out? Bad, bad times. We’ll keep you posted…