Exclusive: Impact FC Hasn’t Paid Its Fighters; Promoters Blame Each Other

(So does the “FC” stand for “Financially Challenged,” “Financial Crisis” or “Fighters Cheated?”) 

If you were one of the many people who had serious doubts that both of the upstart Impact Fighting Championships promotion’s two scheduled July MMA events would go off without a hitch and the issue would somehow relate back to Paulo Filho, you were right, except for the fact that the beleaguered Brazilian is not at all to blame for the controversy surrounding the shows.

The issue that has affected not only Filho, but also the majority of the fighters who competed on the pair of Australian cards, is that none of them have been paid by the promotion.

We learned of the situation Wednesday from one of the affected fighters who wished to remain anonymous, but have since been able to confirm the story with more than a dozen others, including Karo Parisyan, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Jesse Taylor and Brian Ebersole, that none of the cards’ participants have received their complete fight purses .

Although most commissions require that fighters be paid before the promoter leaves the arena the night of the show (some even hold onto and distribute the money themselves) none of the men who fought on either show received checks before flying home from Australia. A handful of them have since received partial payment – the most being 75% of what was owed, however most of the fighters we spoke to have yet to receive a dime, despite multiple phone calls they have made and emails they have sent to promoters Tom Huggins and Andrew McManus asking that they be paid.

What they have received are two ostensibly different accounts of who is to blame and who is responsible for the situation.

Impact’s purported financial backer, Andrew McManus who also owns and operates an Australian-based concert promotion firm and is the former promoter of the failed World Wrestling All-Stars professional wrestling organization that dissolved in 2003 after only two years of existence, claims that he was duped by Huggins.

Here is the statement he made to us via email:

“[Tom] Huggins has run back to Brazil and is uncontactable, whilst I (who never negotiated, contracted or was a party to any deal) have now been left trying to find funds to pay the men whilst all the false promises of sponsorships (never happened) and late gate sales and walk up all turned out to be lies,” McManus wrote.

A source close to the situation indicated that the UFC purportedly contacted any sponsors of the event who also sponsored UFC or WEC shows and told them in no uncertain terms that if they backed Impact, they would no longer be welcomed as a ZUFFA sponsor. As such, several sponsors pulled out last-minute, adding to the promotion’s financial issues.

Huggins, who has managed a number of fighters including Jorge Gurgel, Mario Sperry and Murilo Bustamante and has been involved with a number of MMA promotions in some capacity in his nearly 16 years in the sport — most recently as the executive production consultant for the Brazilian-based Bitetti Combat organization, had this to say in response to McManus’ email:

“That statement is categorically untrue. I can provide you with the agreement between Andrew and myself, which clearly demonstrates that my responsibility was to procure fighters and make matches for the event within a given budget. The agreement clearly shows that ALL of the financing for the events, including fighter purses, was the responsibility of McManus,” Huggins wrote in his reply. “That being said, I feel that at the end of the day McManus being the professional that he is will fulfill his obligations and that the fighters will be paid.”

As of the time of writing, we have yet to receive a copy of the contract from Huggins, but we were told in a subsequent email that he will be sending along a scanned copy of the document so he can clear his name.

We requested a copy of the document from McManus, but he says that he never signed the written agreement he alleges was drafted by Huggins long after the terms of their venture had already been established. He also said that Huggins is not responding to telephone or email inquiries from his office, the fighters or their management.

“You are one of the few people who has been able to get Huggins to respond whilst he hides in his Brazilian province. The fact is that Tom Huggins is a 50% shareholder in Impact MMA (Aud) LLC with his shares held in his name.(This can be, if necessary, proven and identified). A joint venture agreement with terms not accepted or agreed to was created by Huggins yet has NEVER and will NEVER be signed or agreed to,” McManus stated. “His failure to deliver on all parts of the failed venture should give him a conscience whilst me or my company has never been involved with the port of cage fighting previously and went ahead under promises and guarantees of delivery by Huggins.”

Huggins’ Linkedin profile, which lists him as the “Promoter, Owner, President at Impact FC,” does little to refute McManus’ claim that he was much more than just a matchmaker for the promotion, as he indicated to us yesterday.

It’s likely safe to say at this point that the organization won’t be putting on a September show in Brazil as previously planned.

We’ll have more as the story develops.

(MR)