by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Ever since the news broke on Wednesday that American
Kickboxing Academy fighter Jon Fitch had been released from his contract with
the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a firestorm of controversy has reigned.
To be sure, there is a chasm between the two parties. Fitch
and AKA were unwilling to sign away the fighter’s rights to his likeness in
regards to video games, at least for the lifetime term that Zuffa (the UFC’s
parent company) is requiring.
"Basically we said we weren’t cool with that deal and
why can’t we do it for five or 10 years? Why does it have to be a lifetime
deal? Their next response was, ‘either you guys are in or you’re out’ and ‘sign
this or you’re going to get dropped from the UFC,’" Fitch
told MMAWeekly.com on Wednesday night.
"That is true, that we did ask for exclusive rights to
the video game," UFC president Dana White told USA
Today’s Sergio Non in his own interview on Wednesday night. "Every guy, even big stars –
there’s no huge stars coming out of AKA – every huge star that is in the
UFC has given us their video game rights."
But the video game rights aren’t the deciding factor that
many reports focus on. What both parties readily admit is that it comes down to
business. In particular, it is a differing view on how business is done that
seems to separate them.
"Honestly the contract wasn’t even that big of a
Fitch. "We’re not getting paid for it anyways, and it’s not a deal
where I’m actually going to get another deal with a video game agency. I don’t
have that kind of pull; most guys don’t. It has nothing to do with that. It’s
that they brought this contract to us and basically kicked in our front door,
came in guns blazing, and said ‘sign this contract or you’re dead.’"
For his part, White also said it’s not personal, at least in
regards to any one particular fighter, not even Jon Fitch. His problem is doing
business with AKA and Zinkin Entertainment, who represents the majority of
"It has nothing to do with Jon Fitch or any other
specific fighters," he told USA Today. "It has to do with the
management team, the guys who own AKA.
"These guys have never, ever, ever treated us like
partners… We’re just choosing not to do business with AKA any more."
The ideology on what the fighter gives to promote himself
within the confines of the UFC brand, and what the promotion expects of that
fighter created a wall too high to overcome in this case.
In an interview with The Carmichael Dave Show
on 1140am in California, White summed up his perspective by saying, "At
the end of the day, it is a business… with guys who work for us, just like
employees. If you don’t do your job and you don’t work with your company, you
don’t work with them anymore."
At the moment, it has been Jon Fitch and team member
Christian Wellisch that have been released from their
UFC contracts. Other AKA fighters are likely to come to a crossroads as well,
but their fates are not all clear.
White has committed to Josh Koscheck to headline the
promotion’s UFC Fight For The Troops event. "Koscheck is part of the AKA
team. But the difference is, I gave my word to Josh Koscheck," he said in
his USA Today interview.
A representative of the UFC confirmed to MMAWeekly.com on
Wednesday afternoon that Koscheck was still "absolutely" slated to
headline the Dec. 10 event in a bout with Yoshiyuki Yoshida.
AKA fighter Mike Swick also finds himself currently sitting
outside of the fray of recent events. Scheduled to face Jonathan Goulet, also
on the UFC Fight For The Troops event on Spike TV, Swick told MMAWeekly.com
that, "I am not getting cut."
There are heady choices to be made in the coming days and weeks
by many fighters and their camps, as well as by the UFC itself. The only sure
thing is that time will tell what side of the cage everyone lands on.