by Ivan Trembow and Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Rumors have abound that Strikeforce has filed a lawsuit against Frank Shamrock for breach of contract and that they will attempt to stop Shamrock’s fight against Renzo Gracie from taking place on the first Elite Xtreme Combat (EliteXC) event, which is scheduled to air on the Showtime premium cable network on Feb. 10.
MMAWeekly has been in contact with sources close to both sides of the situation and we’re receiving conflicting reports.
Sources on the Showtime and Pro Elite, Inc. side (Pro Elite is the company that has partnered with Showtime in producing the EliteXC event) are adamant that “the Frank Shamrock vs. Renzo Gracie fight is going to take place on February 10th on Showtime.” Without further explanation, however, it is unclear whether this statement comes from an actual resolution to the conflict or whether it comes from the belief that they will find a way to resolve the conflict prior to Feb. 10.
As for Strikeforce, our sources close to the situation are just as adamant in stating that Strikeforce is in ongoing talks with Showtime and Pro Elite, but that there has been no agreement reached at this time. They also say that Strikeforce is prepared to move forward in the courts if the two sides cannot come to a resolution on their own.
Strikeforce parent company West Coast Production is alleging that Shamrock breached his contract with Strikeforce when he signed with EliteXC parent company Pro Elite, Inc. to fight Gracie on the February 10th Showtime telecast.
According to Strikeforce, Shamrock’s contract with them explicitly states that his next fight must be for Strikeforce, which if true, would seem to make Shamrock’s contract with Pro Elite a violation of his pre-existing Strikeforce contract.
Shamrock had been scheduled to fight Phil Baroni on a major Strikeforce show in the late spring on nationally distributed pay-per-view, but those plans were thrown into disarray when Shamrock signed to fight on the February EliteXC card. In addition to the possibility that he might lose to Gracie, Shamrock could also be injured even in victory, thus putting the Strikeforce event that was to be built around Shamrock vs. Baroni in jeopardy.
The facts of the litigation are that West Coast Production did indeed file for a preliminary injunction against Frank Juarez (Frank Shamrock’s legal name) on Jan. 23, 2007 and a hearing date to determine whether the injunction would be granted or not was set for Feb. 6, 2007, just four days prior to the scheduled fight.
If the situation has not been resolved prior to the hearing date, Strikeforce’s representatives will make their case to a judge that Shamrock should be legally prevented from fighting on the Feb. 10 event, while representatives of the Shamrock-Showtime-EliteXC side will argue that Shamrock should not be legally prevented from fighting.
If the situation progresses to the Feb. 6 hearing, the judge will not be deciding the entire case at that hearing; he or she will only be deciding whether to issue an injunction at that time to bar Shamrock from fighting on the EliteXC card.
If the judge decides not to issue an injunction (thus allowing Shamrock to fight on the EliteXC card as scheduled), Strikeforce’s suit against Shamrock would still be active and they could still seek monetary damages in the future.
At the EliteXC introductory press conference in mid-December, Sherdog.com asked Shamrock how he could be fighting Gracie in February when he had just announced that he would be fighting Baroni in Strikeforce. Shamrock’s response was, “I have a business relationship that allows that to happen.”
Strikeforce did not agree with Shamrock’s assessment of the situation, as Strikeforce official Mike Afromowitz told MMAWeekly’s Ken Pishna in mid-December, “Frank has a contract with us that very clearly states that his next fight is to be for us. By signing to fight elsewhere before fulfilling that fight, he is not honoring that contract.”
In addition, Strikeforce told MMAWeekly in mid-December that Strikeforce had previously notified an EliteXC representative about Shamrock’s contract with Strikeforce (prior to Shamrock’s signing with EliteXC), and added that Strikeforce has “sent correspondence to Gary Shaw and Douglas DeLuca [both members of the EliteXC management team] and Showtime officially notifying them that there is a problem.”
During a mid-January press conference to promote the EliteXC card, Shamrock was once again asked by a member of the media about the contractual issues involving Strikeforce. According to EliteXC’s transcript of the press conference, Shamrock replied, “It has been straightened out. Strikeforce and I have a really good business relationship and we have been able to see past the points.”
Strikeforce apparently disagreed and has filed the lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction if the situation is not resolved between the two sides.
Even if a judge does issue an injunction that would prevent Frank Shamrock vs. Renzo Gracie from taking place, the EliteXC card would still take place on Feb. 10th, albeit without its scheduled main event.
At the time of publication, officials from both Strikeforce and from Showtime/Pro Elite declined to comment on the situation, although it was indicated that Showtime/Pro Elite will soon be issuing comment on the situation.