What’s Right and Wrong with MMA Management?

Brian Stann at UFC on Versus 2by Robert Roveta – special to MMAWeekly.com

(Robert Roveta is the head of Denaro Sports Marketing and represents several fighters in the UFC including Brian Stann, Mark Hominick, Yushin Okami, Dustin Poirier and Mac Danzig.)

There has been a great deal of talk over the last few months about the role of an agent or manager in mixed martial arts, and whether or not they’re needed. While the argument could be made that agents and managers aren’t a necessity — that fighters can do it all themselves — there are a number of positive things a quality agent or manager brings to the table that cannot be overlooked.

If you want to be the best in any walk of life, you need a team of certified professionals and specialists working with you to help you reach that goal, handling any number of tasks so that you can focus on what’s most important. For mixed martial artists, that’s training for your next fight not trying to find sponsors, booking travel arrangements, and completing all the paperwork that accompanies each bout. Should a fighter really be worrying about his banner or if a sponsor patch is located in the right place?

From medical contacts across the country to detailed background information on various sponsors to a list of promoters, promotions, and everyone who works in the various departments at Zuffa, a good agent has all of these people in their Rolodex and is dedicated to keeping their files updated.

Just as each fighter needs a good team of people around them, a quality manager or agent should be surrounded by specialists who handle various elements that are integral to helping build and maintain their clients’ careers – including graphic and web designers, public relations reps, accountants, attorneys, and others.

Additionally, a good agent or manager has strong relationships throughout the MMA industry. Finding the right people to work with — coaches, sparring partners, fight camps — and being able to reliably consult with other agents and managers on any number of issues are all vital elements that your manager should possess.

If your manager doesn’t get along with others in the industry, it doesn’t mean he’s better than the rest; it usually means there’s a problem.

The biggest issue in the MMA management field right now is that there is no barrier to entry.

By comparison, to represent a player in the National Football League (NFL), a prospective agent must have:

• Received an undergraduate degree from an accredited college/university and a post-graduate degree (Masters or Law) from an accredited college/university
• File a verified Application for Certification as a Contract Advisor with the NFL Players Association within the specified dates
• Pay the non-refundable application fee ($2,500)
• Attend a two-day seminar, and
• Successfully complete a 60-question multiple-choice exam that covers the Collective Bargaining Agreement, salary cap, player benefits, and other issues relevant to player representation.
• Certified agents also pay the NFLPA an annual fee based on the number of active clients they represent.

There is currently no certification process, zero codified professional standards laid out that agents and managers must adhere to, and you don’t have to make any time commitment or personal investment into becoming an agent or manager within this industry.

To be an agent or manager in the mixed martial arts industry, all you currently have to do is tell people that you’re an agent or manager in the mixed martial arts industry. After that, you’re free to start recruiting clients.

We — fighters and managers — must take it upon ourselves to rectify the situation and improve the industry.

As managers, we need to band together to establish certifications, regulations, and minimum requirements to be an agent or manager within the sport of mixed martial arts.

As fighters, take the time to do your due diligence.

If you were going to buy a house, you’d surely look into the background of your real estate agent — find out how many houses they’ve sold in the past? What their reputation is like within the industry? What they were doing previously? Why they got into real estate in the first place?

The same steps should be taken in finding the right agent.

Find out how long that manager has worked in mixed martial arts, and what brought them to the sport and their role as a manager or agent to begin with? What fighters have they represented in the past? What is their reputation among the other fighters, the promotions, and his contemporaries?

How much turnover has he had in his client roster over the last six months and why? What has he done for the fighters he’s worked with in the past?

These are all basic questions that need to be addressed up front, and can potentially help steer fighters away from making a managerial decision they come to regret.

Furthermore, is there a good fit personality-wise between you and your prospective agent or manager? Do they know your expectations of them and of what you hope to achieve in your career, and will you enjoy working with them to help reach those goals?

To buy a good house, you need a good real estate agent. To get your taxes done correctly, you need a good accountant. To handle your legal affairs, you need a good attorney. To handle your day-to-day minutia, you need a good assistant.

To be the best in your field, you need a team of skilled and trained professionals around you, period.

Fighters are no different.