Mismanagement: The process or practice of managing ineptly, incompetently, or dishonestly.
As tough as I usually am on the UFC (no, no...it’s true), there are plenty of other times when I respect and even sympathize with how difficult it must be for the world’s fastest growing fight promotion to always deliver on the constant evolution of fan expectations.
I mean seriously...I wouldn’t be a fan of the sport otherwise.
Aside from running a successful and growing monopoly business, it can’t be easy from a managerial perspective to have to deal with the ginormous (it’s a word damn it!) amounts of inflated egos that circumvent this great sport, whether it’s from the fighters themselves, or from the agents that claim to represent them.
“I’m a Kennedy in this world of MMA, bro.”—Ed Soares, Tough Media Inc. / Black House
Not but a few days ago, the UFC reluctantly announced that Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis would not be fighting “Suga” Rashad Evans in the upcoming main event of UFC 133 on August 6, 2011 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That didn’t exactly leave the UFC with a whole lot of time to find a suitable replacement, which most definitely can’t be an easy job considering that most other fighters in the UFC all have prior commitments with other matches.
And “suitable” is definitely the operative word.
In a fight that was very likely going to determine the UFC’s next Light Heavyweight contender (Rashad for sure, and Davis maybe, depending on how convincingly he had won), there was little doubt that the fans wouldn’t accept anything less than a main event that actually held some relevant levels of significance within the division (Kimbo Slice anyone?).
Given the incredibly short time frame, it would have been very difficult to put any sort of match together with this short of notice, unless of course all of the parties were prepared to make various sacrifices and concessions in terms of financial payout and promotional/training expectations.
In the end, the ultimate deal that was struck was in fact a Win-Win-Win situation for Tito Ortiz, the UFC, and of course the fans.
Tito in particular, although reluctant at first (and for very good reason considering that he only just fought two weeks ago at UFC 132), finally came around and agreed to help out the UFC by taking the fight against Evans, which actually works out very well for Tito bearing in mind that the last time that he and Evans fought, the result was a disappointing draw.
Since then, Tito had only sunk deeper into his five year winless streak, and Evans wound up eventually going on to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.
“Oh fate...why are you so cruel?”
This match is already a major WIN for Tito Ortiz and here are the main reasons why:
One—Redemption: Having already lost to Evans (don’t forget, Tito lost a point for grabbing the fence and would have won that fight otherwise), Tito now has an opportunity to defeat one of the top ranked fighters in the entire division and launch himself straight up the ladder for the second time in a little more than a month.
Two—Ring Rust: Having just fought two weeks ago in a dominant performance against Ryan “Master” Bader (sorry, I’ve been saving that one up and just couldn’t resist), Tito should have a considerable edge over Evans from a “ring rust” perspective, as Evans hasn’t fought in well over a year due to a combination of injuries and holding out for something better. Well...now he gets Tito. Hope the wait was worth it, Rashad!
Three—Fan Support: When I was at the UFC Fan Expo in Boston last summer, what shocked me the most were the number of people waiting in line just to get Tito’s autograph. It was definitely the biggest in the entire building. Popularity aside, it’s still amazing to me what a win can do for anyone in this sport—yes, even Tito, who no doubt has doubled his already massive fanbase in just two short weeks. Between that and Evans’ recent on-line, cry-baby feud with his former friend and teammate, Jonny “Bones” Jones, the fans (for the most part) are extremely tired of Evans and his projected sense of entitlement and superiority. Tito = Cheers. Evans = Jeers.
Four—Respect: With Ortiz biting the bullet and helping the UFC in this situation, thus also helping Rashad, who otherwise would have been scrapped from the fight card altogether (and let’s not forget about entertaining the fans of Philly), Tito is being called everything from UFC saviour to a downright “hero.” As such, I have decided to always carry an umbrella with me wherever I go—flying pigs can get quite messy, ya know. Seriously, I admire Tito for stepping up. At the UFC Fan Expo in Toronto, Dana White went on a very public tirade, which was broadcast live on the Jumbo Tron, insulting and ridiculing Tito in front of all of the fans in attendance. Tito owes the UFC nothing—less than nothing—and yet, he helped them anyway. Good for Tito. Maybe he is the saviour afterall...?
Five—Personal Life: “Say it ain’t so!” pleaded Tito. “You mean, I’ll have to spend even more time dedicating myself in the gym instead or arguing via Twitter with my insane girlfriend?” As Charlie Sheen would say...“Winnng!”
Six—The Championship Hunt Continues: If Tito should actually defeat Rashad, which I think he will (wow, first I predicted his win over Bader and now this? What the hell is wrong with me?!), he will have gone from the bottom of the division to the Top 3 within a matter of weeks. Amazing! MMA is a crazy sport in that regard—anything can happen. Plus, Dana White will owe Tito a huge favour in the future (possibly a “get out of jail free” card the next time White feels like releasing Tito from his contract—or reality show), and at the very least, if Tito should lose, at least this time he’ll have an excuse that people will actually be able to believe.
Wow, as I’m writing this all out, I just realized that Tito Ortiz is once again majorly relevant in the UFC. Incredible, isn’t it?
And what’s really amazing is that this wasn’t even supposed to be Tito’s fight to have. Why would it be? As previously mentioned, he only just finished fighting two weeks ago. If anyone should be at the bottom of the list of prospects, it’s Tito. Even though he was the first person (that I’m aware of) that got asked by the UFC to fill in for Davis, Tito understandably declined the offer, and the UFC had no other choice but to ask Black House fighter, Lyoto “the Dragon” Machida, who immediately accepted the fight.
Yippie! Awesome! Can you say, “Team Player?”
After breaking out the calculator and deliberating heavily with his anything but savoir-faire managers, Ed Soares and “Joinha” Jorge Guimarães (maybe you know them better from their recent controversies involving Junior dos Santos and Will Ribeiro), Machida decided that the only way he would accept the fight (after already agreeing to accept the fight, thus putting the UFC marketing and promotional machine into motion) is if he got paid a significantly higher amount of money.
In other words, Machida, who thanks to the advice of his brilliant managers, decided that it would be a great idea to play hardball with Dana White. I guess they thought that he would take kindly to being taken advantage of and becoming a victim of extortion.
Extortion: A criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.
Coercion: The practice of using threats, rewards, intimidation, or any other incentive to affect another. In law, coercion is codified as the duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way.
Duress: When pressure is exerted upon a person to coerce that person to perform an act that he or she ordinarily would not perform.
Look...I don’t disagree that Lyoto had every right to ask for more money. That’s his prerogative. Just as it was Dana White’s prerogative to refuse. But here’s the real issue as I see it...
Machida had already agreed to the fight and then he changed his mind. He knew that the UFC was in a very desperate situation and asking for more money only made it seem like he was trying to take advantage of the situation (because he was). Obviously Dana White agrees with that assessment, because without hesitation, White immediately told Black House to essentially “blow it out their asses,” and the offer was right back at Tito (who by the way, followed up with the UFC—not the other way around...man, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m really starting to like the new Tito).
Machida's justification for earning more money kinda made sense, but the whole training scenario wouldn't have changed at all just because he had a few extra dollars in his pocket. Sure, he was risking his fight record by taking a fight on shorter notice (certainly wouldn’t be the first), but why would he think that a fight against Evans would go any differently than it did the first time those two warriors met, with Evans getting knocked out in the most embarrassing of ways? Plus, even if Machida did lose, it would take a real scumbag organization to fire a guy after he loses, after he just did them a HUGE favour. There really wasn’t a whole lot of risk involved.
If I were Machida’s manager, not only would I be much better looking, but I would have advised Lyoto to graciously make the sacrifice, take the fight, not complain, and then "hope" to get rewarded down the road as all good “company men” usually do—preferably at contract renewal time.
Nobody likes to feel taken advantage of, and who knows how the negotiations really went down? Jorge and Ed were no doubt playing the part of opportunists and fishing for a much larger commission cheque.
From what I understand, salaries aren't typically negotiated right before a fight. That's why the fighters are on contracts, and why you see guys like Roy “Big Country” Nelson getting paid a measly $10 G's for co-headlining a live pay-per-view event. Whatever is in the contract is what the fighters get paid. When the contract is up, that is the time to negotiate for a better deal. Not when the UFC is desperate and has their backs against the wall. But again, Machida’s managers should have known better. Why the hell is he paying them if not to help make better and sounder business decisions?
Perhaps Black House decided that Dana White would be in a more “friendly” and amicable mood after fellow Black House member, Rodrigo “Egg Nog” Nogueira criticized him in the media this past week for trying to play “God” with fighter’s careers:
“I think he was unfortunate with his comments. They're idols of the sport, he's not a God who decides on everyone's career," Nogueira said of White, referring to Wanderlei Silva.
“I loved the fact that Tito Ortiz won his last fight,” he said. “You see that these people were not champions for nothing. But Dana White can't decide [their fate], he'll have to eat his words regarding Tito.”
Well played Mr. Oddly-Textured-Beverage-Mostly-Only-Drank-Around-the-Christmas-Holidays.
Well played indeed.
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