Access: Denied

Written by Tom Ngo
April 2nd, 2009


The UFC appears to have made a significant power play in their hopes of gaining greater control of their employees. Recently, the organization notified a select group of fighters that their managers and agents would no longer be permitted in the backstage area during events.

“You don’t ask questions of them. You know how that goes,” one manager, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity for fear of facing the wrath of the UFC, told Sherdog.com.

It is being reported that the order was handed down by UFC president Dana White, a one-time manager that has worked with the likes of former UFC champs Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.

“They’re divisively trying to split management and fighters,” one representative told the website. “They’re trying to de-power the managers and agents to create a wedge between them. They give locker room bonuses and say, ‘This is from Dana [White] and the UFC — nobody else.’ They’re telling fighters they can go directly to them. They’re telling fighters they’ll be doing sponsorships themselves in the near future that will put the managers and agents out of business. They’re trying to minimize the managers’ and agents’ role in the fighter’s life so they can better control salaries.”

The limitations on backstage credentials extended to Zuffa, LLC’s other MMA organization, WEC, as well.

There does appear to be a loop-hole around the UFC’s attempt to limit locker room traffic. Sherdog spoke with athletic commission representatives from California, New Jersey and Tennessee, and all stated that managers and agents are welcome to apply for one of the three commission-issued credentials allotted to either licensed seconds or cornermen.

“If the manager is one of the three seconds, he may be at ringside. If he is not, it is at the promoter’s discretion who gets credentials,” Tennessee executive director Jeff Mullen stated. “I can only ask for credentials for someone who is on official commission business.”

MMA super-agent Ken Pavia, who represents 55 athletes, states that although the theory is good, any well-rounded MMA fighter will require specialists to be his top three, leaving mangers and agents on the outside looking in.

“With the multiplicity of disciplines the fighters must be schooled in, their striking coach, their ground coach are needed in the corner,” said Pavia, who was among those denied. “Their training partner is in the locker room with them, helping them warm up, to break a sweat, to grapple, to pummel, whatever. Often, a full-service fighter will have all three in his corner, which pushes the manager or agent out.”

Multiple management firms confirmed that they were Heisman’d by the UFC for credentials at Wednesday night’s UFC Fight Night 18 event, UFC Fight Night 17, UFC 95, UFC 96, as well as WEC 39, which took place March 1st.

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