On the heels of the jarring Reebok payout announcement, some of the biggest managers in MMA are collectively meeting in Vegas next week. The UFC’s announcement last week revealed a veteran centric payment tier that started at $2,500 per fight for newer fighters and capped out at $40,000 for reigning champions. With the UFC’s general “3 losses and you’re out” approach to talent retainment, it’s reasonable to assume that most fighters will reside among the $5,000 to $10,000 payout mark.
Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting is reporting that MMA Inc. super-firm heavy hitters, Mike Roberts and Jeff Meyer, have orchestrated the manager meeting along with other industry managers. MMA Inc. has made their name working with such fighters as Urijah Faber, Chad Mendez, Anthony Pettis, TJ Dillishaw, and Paige VanZant.
“This came about through a couple of unrelated phone calls between a few managers,” explained Jeff Meyer. “It was suggested that we should all get together [sometime]. Since quite a few managers will be in Las Vegas over Memorial Day, we decided to put something together. An invitation was sent out to about a dozen managers. The response was very positive and a few managers that were not on the original invitation have asked to attend as well. And they are welcome to do so.”
Other managers who are confirmed for the conference are Robert Roveta (Dustin Poirier, Shawn Jordan, and Matt Brown), Brian Butler-Au (Felice Herrig, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Carla Esparza), and Ana Claudia Guedes (Junior dos Santos). Out of respect of the other managers, Jeff Meyer wouldn’t disclose the other expected managers.
Clearly these managers intend to discuss the common interest between them and their fighters but the timing seems anything but coincidental. The meeting will take place a week prior to UFC 187, the event where the Reebok deal will first materialize into fiscal reality. However, before we assume that this meeting is an attempt to blockade or stifle the Reebok deal from going into motion, we must remember that many MMA Inc. fighters have solidified Reebok deals in place beyond the UFC payouts. Meyer is quick to remind us that though the Reebok deal is an issue of discussion that it is just one component of many issues regarding their fighters.
“There has been some speculation in the media as to the agenda of the meeting,” clarified Meyer. “The only agenda item is for management to get together and share insights over a variety of topics, with the hope that we can make our industry better for the benefit of our respective clients and our respective agencies. That’s it.”
Before some of us get our hopes up for player unionization, we should pay attention to Meyer’s words here. “…our respective clients and our respective agencies.” Though these managers have the interest of their fighters foremost in their minds, their interests are not altruistic. They have skin invested into this game and they have their own interests to protect.
Historically, players unions are typically created from the athletes to collectively place economic pressures on to their respective leagues. In 1956, when Abe Gibron, Dante Lavelli, Don Shula, John Gordy, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, and Van Brocklin approached a lawyer to protect their self-interests they would create the National Football League Players Association. In 1965, it was the players who sought out the services of respected economist Marvin Miller in order to form what would be the MLBA. Historically, it takes athletes to create an infrastructure that protects the collective interests of the athletes.
Though this meeting is crucial for the interest of the fighters and their managers, we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that a union upheaval will occur overnight. The management is vested in not only the interest of their fighters but also in their sponsors. The overall tone in play is measured, reserved, and with respect to their fighters’ promotions. Ultimately Meyer frames the situation well making it clear that they do not intend on biting the hands that pays them.
“We’re not trying to hide the fact that we’re meeting next week,” established Meyer. “…and we’re not trying to pick on any specific promotion. It’s just long overdue that management sits down and has a collective conversation about the state of the business. It’s amazing that we haven’t done this yet.”
Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”
In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.
Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.
It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the metro.uk, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.
In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”
He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.
Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.
When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.
“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.
The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”
“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.
When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.
He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.
UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.
— UFC (@ufc) February 8, 2018
Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.
This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.
The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.
Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.
For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.
UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.
UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child
Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.
It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.
His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.
UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.
Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.
UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.
- Interviews3 months ago
Exclusive: Alexander Gustafsson eyeing summer 2018 return- wants title shot next
- Opinion4 months ago
A list of fighters who fought Michael Bisping – while on steroids
- Interviews4 months ago
Sage Northcutt on Moving to Sacramento and Life at Team Alpha Male
- Cage Warriors4 months ago
EXCLUSIVE: Matt Inman Talks Cage Warriors 87, His Love For Fighting And Craig White Possibly Tiring Himself Out.
- Rumours3 years ago
Proto MMA History: The Day Antonio Inoki Almost Killed The Great Antonio
- BAMMA3 months ago
BAMMA 32: Official Results and Live Stream
- Interviews4 months ago
Tim Means on Lawsuit Against Supplement Companies “I’m Going to Shut Them Down”
- Interviews4 months ago
Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”