UFC Fighters Caught Up In Licensing Controversy
Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters including Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck are embroiled in a controversy over their refusal to sign a lifetime videogame licensing deal with publisher THQ.
The proposed licensing arrangement between the UFC and THQ would have given the game publisher lifetime rights to the likeness of Fitch and his fellow fighters, which Fitch described as "kind of crazy. Why would you sign anything away for your lifetime?" The problem, he said, is that the exclusive agreement would bar him and other fighters from working with any videogame company other than the one chosen by the UFC. He also took exception to the way the contract was presented to his management. "They basically kicked the door open, guns blazing, pointed it in our face and said, 'Sign this or you're going to pay,'" he told Hardcore Sports Radio. Fitch was apparently given an ultimatum: Sign the contract or lose his position with the UFC. He declined to sign and was immediately cut.
In the wake of that refusal, UFC President Dana White once again proved to the world that he's an astute, classy businessman (as opposed to a thuggish douchebag), telling MMAjunkie.com, "Let [Fitch] go work with [Affliction]. 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."
The trouble is that despite White's shrewd negotiating skills, Fitch is one of the UFC's top fighters. While not as instantly recognizable as fighters like Chuck Lidell or Georges St. Pierre, he had run off a string of eight consecutive wins in the UFC, preceded by seven consecutive wins in other promotions, before losing a five-round decision to St. Pierre for the welterweight championship. That kind of cachet as a fighter is hard to ignore, and sure enough, according to Fighters.com, negotiations were re-opened and the dispute has reportedly been resolved, with Fitch agreeing to sign a licensing deal. Prior to his dismissal, Fitch had suggested he would be amenable to a five or ten-year deal, but the actual terms of the contract he ended up signing were not revealed.
The importance of videogame licenses for professional athletes has only recently been recognized. The most visible case thus far is that of the NFL Players Association, which was ordered to pay $28 million to many former players after losing a lawsuit brought against it over licensing issues, including its deal with EA for the Madden NFL franchise. In that regard, Fitch is somewhat ahead of the curve, but given the huge popularity and continued growth of the videogame market, I expect the number of athletes who pay particular attention to those game rights in licensing deals to grow rapidly. The fates of Koscheck and other fighters affected by the disagreement, meanwhile, remain unresolved.
I applaud Fitch for taking a stand against linear 'always thinking about myself' Dana White.
Dana White is notorious for putting his postion and vision first before all others, i.e. "My way or the highway". While some may say that his arrogance and fortitude made him what he is as a business man, he can be quite obviously be very stubborn and childish in his responses.
While Fitch leaving may not hurt UFC much, if enough other athletes didn't sell their souls or feared the self-imposed almight Dana White, and actually took a stand with Fitch....I'm sure it would just be a matter of time before White capitulated.
See, with White...it's about the money, then the welfare of his athletes after he's been taken care of. Maybe if enough people defect, or some other orgnaization can actually hold it together for more than a year Dana would be singing another tune.
Good for Fitch. Yeah, he may not make the same amount of money he did in UFC, but that contract the way it was laid out is crazy. At least Fitch has a business sense about him as well. Chances are, like most of these fighting games, it'll suck.
Here's to hoping Fitch and fellow fighters who stand up for themselves in having a successful career elsewhere, and hopefully, eventually humble White. I'd cheer if Fitch took White to court for wrongful termination and won HUGE.
I could care less about Koscheck, but I really hope they get Fitch back.
The news article now may be irrelevant as I just got this newsbyte off a MMA site this morning:
Jon Fitch spoke with Lorenzo Fertitta today and agreed to sign the merchandising contract. He is back in UFC and will fight Jan. 31 against Akihiro Gono as scheduled.
Christian Wellisch has also been reinstated. He had agreed to sign the merchandising contract but was fired as part of the blow-up between Dana White and Zinkin Entertainment, his management company.
All the Zinkin Entertainment fighters have agreed to sign the merchandising agreement so Cain Velasquez and Josh Koscheck are in no longer going to be released.
Well...I guess even Fitch decided it was better to sell his soul....*sigh*
Actually, the news article mentioned Fitch's return already. Paragraph four. ;)
Did it say what the specific terms of the contract were? Was a compromise reached, or did Fitch just roll over for White?
I hope he didn't roll over. If your a talented athelete, F**K it, you'll find work somewhere.
UFC needs to learn that there's a reason theres dozens of different wrestling leagues- because when you f**k with your atheletes too much your big talent can abandon you to form their own labels.