It was a tropical storm that delayed Nemisis Fighting’s MMA Global Invasion show in November, but what resulted in December was a man-made disaster of equally destructive proportion.
As MMAWeekly.com first reported earlier this week, fighters from the Nemeis Fighting show that took place in the Dominican Republic last weekend traveled home with the knowledge that the checks they were handed after their fights were certain to bounce, and payment may never get made.
The problems with the show started long before the checks were handed out, however, as two of the fighters who competed that night have now spoken up telling the story of the debacle in the Dominican Republic.
Both Paul Buentello and Eliot Marshall were successful in their endeavors during the show, but that doesn’t soften the blow of all the other problems they had to endure before, during, and after the massive failure that went down at Nemesis Fighting.
Prior to ever landing on the island, Marshall had four different opponent changes before a fighter was finally found to face him. As he found out once he arrived, his opponent, Chris McNally, wouldn’t get there till the day of the fight, and obviously would miss the weigh-ins. Marshall was then informed that McNally was normally a middleweight so he wouldn’t be giving up a huge amount of weight, but he still needed to weigh-in on the 205-pound limit.
This is where things started to get strange.
“We had a two hour window where we could just show up and weigh in,” Marshall explained. “Like we’re sitting in the lobby and they’re explaining this to us and they’re like ‘the official scale will be here at noon, so come on down any time between noon and two and you guys can weigh in.'”
No face-offs and fighters didn’t even see their opponents at the weigh-ins, although the promoter was there making sure to write everything down. The promoters took care of that because there was no commission overseeing the process and procedures that took place at Nemesis Fighting. Marshall admits his radar was up immediately, but he was there already and wanted to fight.
“It wasn’t the smoothest, but I needed to fight, and supposedly the money was good,” Marshall explained.
According to the former “Ultimate Fighter” competitor, the promoters were paying nearly what the UFC did for fights, so of course many of the athletes jumped at the chance to compete on the show. Besides Marshall and Buentello, Keith Jardine, Mike Nickels, John Dodson, and Kerry Schall all made the trip to the Dominican Republic to fight on the show.
The next evening it was time for the fights, but that became an exercise in futility as well with nobody in the back monitoring the fighters or even leading the way to tell them when they had to fight or who was coming up next. Referee Mario Yamasaki was the only official on the scene, and he policed most of the rules throughout the evening.
Yamasaki ended up having to handle one major problem in the back as Buentello tells his account of a locker room full of fighters and a lot of illegal things going on.
“The fights are starting late already, so we’re laying there and some of the fighters from the Dominican Republic were rubbing icy hot all over their legs and backs to warm themselves up,” said Buentello. “So I stand up and am like ‘hey, who’s putting icy hot on?’ The locker room was just reeking of Ben Gay and Icy Hot and Eliot (Marshall) goes ‘who’s cheating?'”
Yamasaki walked in and Buentello alerted him of what’s going on, and he immediately told the Dominican fighters they had to take showers or not be able to fight. Disaster averted, but that was just the tip of the iceberg for the evening.
As the fighters made their way to the cage for the first fight of the evening and the round began, something was off. The fight went on without any problems, but then someone nearby noticed that the round seemed to be going on awfully long.
“The first round of the first fight went eight minutes cause there was no timekeeper,” Marshall explained. “They realized the round was going on way too long so they threw a towel into the cage.”
Beyond the professional stoppage of the first round, the promotion managed to find a timekeeper, sort of, for the rest of the night. There was no 10-second clap nor was there even a bell, only a referee’s whistle that somebody found to signal the round was coming to an end.
“The timekeeper used his cell phone and the guy I don’t know if he was a security guard or what, he could have been the janitor, he had a cell phone with a timer on it, and he was texting too, while he was watching the time for the fight because the fights were averaging about 5:15, 4:30, 4-minute rounds and even my fight was like 10 seconds short and then 10 seconds over,” Buentello revealed.
The next problem that popped up that night was when the fighters realized there were no medical professionals on hand at the show. No doctor, not even a nurse. Only someone walking around with a “toolbox full of band-aids,” according to Buentello.
Marshall’s sense of self-preservation kicked in at that moment.
“Then we find out that there’s no doctor. So we’re about to go to the cage and there’s no medical professionals whatsoever to take care of people if something happens,” Marshall said.
The night of fights saw several finishes, including a couple bone rattling knockouts. Marshall tells the story of one of the early fights in which a fighter was knocked unconscious and how the crack staff on duty handled the situation.
“There was just some dude standing over him putting water on his head till he woke up,” said Marshall. “My plan was not to stand up too much after I saw that there was no doctor. I was like, you know what, let’s go to the ground.”
Marshall went with his gut and submitted his opponent at just over two minutes into the first round, while Buentello had to go to a decision to get his win over Kerry Schall. The fights that night only begat the real fights that would start the next day when it was time to get paid.
Marshall had an early morning flight out of the Dominican Republic, so he met the promoter at 7 a.m.and picked up his check before flying home to Colorado. Unfortunately, Buentello and many other fighters were not nearly as lucky to just get a check handed to them.
Fighters were told to meet the promoter at 8 a.m. at a local café to receive their pay. When the promoter didn’t show and the hour crept on to 1 p.m., everyone started to get suspicious. Luckily, someone tracked down the promoter, who was in his hotel room. All the fighters trucked over there and went into the hotel room where he began writing checks out on the spot.
A veteran of over 40 pro fights with several organizations, Buentello was cautious to believe that the check he was being handed was legitimate.
“I was like ‘are you sure man this is going to clear?’ and he was like ‘we’re all good, the money’s in there, you’re great.’ I was like ‘I hope to God you’re right,’ and he was like ‘no, you’re good.’ Buentello recalled. “He was standing up and he’s only like 5’3″ and I’m like towering over him, looking down on him, kind of putting some pressure on him so I hope this check is good, you know giving him that crazy Mexican look and so I leave and try to enjoy the day.”
Enjoying the beach and the sun were not in the cards, however, as a short while later Buentello received a call from one of his cornermen who traveled to the island with him.
“You want the bad news or the really bad news?” his cornerman asked. “Well, the bad news is y’all ain’t getting paid. The really bad news, there’s only $4,000 in that account.”
At this point, Buentello headed back up to the hotel room to confront the promoter. When he walked in, he saw immediately that he wasn’t the only fighter that’s discovered there will be nobody getting paid from this event. Before the former UFC and Strikeforce heavyweight had a chance to even get angry with the promoter, several other fighters jumped ahead of him and it looked like things might get violent.
“What was really crazy is when the Puerto Ricans came into the room. It was like a scene from ‘Scarface,'” Buentello said. ” When I walked into the room, I was pretty pissed, I was ready to grab him by the throat and just start dropping elbows, but right when I walked in, the Puerto Rican guys, these guys were like 4’5″, they come pushing me out of the way and they come in there speaking their language ‘we’re going to kill you right now!’ and before you know it, we had to protect the promoter cause these little guys wanted to kill him. Drag him out to the beach and slice him up. The thing is it was only over a couple thousand dollars, but these guys were pissed.
“Everybody thought that if we left that promoter with those Puerto Ricans, we’d come back to like a ‘Scarface’ scene. He’d be chained up in the bathroom with a chainsaw going through his head. Those guys were pissed.”
The fighters from Puerto Rico apparently had yet another reason to be mad at the promoter for a show that, according to those on the scene, only ended up attracting around 300 fans in total. The organization had contracted a cage from a gym in Puerto Rico to use at the show for the fights. When the arena that held the event realized they weren’t getting paid either, things went downhill fast.
“What really pissed off the Puerto Ricans is they brought their cage over from Puerto Rico. I guess one of the promoters paid him some money to bring it over. So they went to go take it down, tear it down and ship it out, and the Coliseum locked the doors on it, ‘no you can’t have it, we’re keeping it until we have our money.’ So that’s the heat of it, that’s what started all of it,” Buentello said.
At this point the fighters were essentially promised the money would get there and they left on their way, but that wasn’t the end of the ordeal. The promoter said time and time again that this wasn’t his fault and pointed the finger in every direction but his own, according to Buentello.
Add to that, Seth Petruzelli and Mike Van Arsdale, who were there to do the commentary, were kicked out of their hotel room and ordered to go back and pick up their things or it would be left out in front of the hotel for anyone to grab. The Puerto Rican fighters who were about to get violent with the promoter also got booted from the hotel.
One of the fighters who was knocked out earlier in the evening spent so much time haggling with the promoter over his money that he missed his flight home, and the alternative became an even bigger nightmare.
“He waited to get his check. He finally got his check, he took off to the airport, and he missed his flight,” Buentello said. “He (tries) to find out if he can get transferred to the next flight. Well, there’s only three fights leaving that island. The third flight, it was going to cost him $1,000 to get out. He only got paid $2,000 to fight – well he got a check for $2,000 – and it was going to cost him another $1,000 to get home.”
The fighter of course really got paid nothing as the check wasn’t good anyways, but according to Buentello, he was using the $2,000 payday to take care of rent for him and his family. He somehow found a flight home, but never got his pay for the fight.
Back in the United States, Eliot Marshall has landed at home and was excited to cash his check and relish a victory. That was until he got a text message with disastrous news.
“Keith Jardine texted me and told me to call him the next day. I called him and he explained everything that was going on and I was like, ‘yeah, that’s not good.’ I don’t know how they figured it out, but my check bounced today. I got the call when I was driving to go teach my jiu-jitsu class that my check bounced,” Marshall said.
Things only got worse for Buentello after he got home because not only did his check not clear, but he has a broken hand from the fight with Schall that may require surgery, which will come out of his own pocket. Being a veteran of the sport, Buentello says that all the fighters involved stayed involved in the show because they believed they were competing for a legitimate promotion, but once they got to the Dominican Republic it was anything but professional.
“These guys took advantage of our camaraderie and our love for the sport,” said Buentello. “Now I have a bad taste in my mouth, this is the second time this (expletive) happened to me.”
Buentello has dealt with many bad situations in his past and has also heard everyone from fighters to fans take some of the athletic commissions to task, but in this case he believes it would have saved everyone a headache and a low bank account.
“Everybody complains about a commission, but if we had a commission there we would have had our money there in hand, right when you walked out of that cage,” said Buentello.
The worst part that may come out of all of this is the fights that took place ended up being spectacular. Everyone involved left their hearts and souls in the cage, and each bout was just as exciting as the last.
“The fights themselves were phenomenal fights,” said Marshall. “One of the best fight cards I’ve ever been at as far as the actual fights. Every single fighter brought it, and they were good fights with either finishes or the ones that didn’t get finished were scraps. Really good fights.”
The hope for the fighters to recoup at least some of the money lies in the quality of those fights. John Madrid, who manages Keith Jardine, has been working to get the rights to the video to try to put it on an internet pay-per-view with the benefits going to the fighters to help cover their pay. Buentello is hoping it happens just to give something back to those who fought so hard and went home without a penny.
“Hopefully the fans will get on there and pay the few bucks to watch it, and we get enough and the fighters get paid from the pay-per-view,” commented Buentello.
For his part, Marshall at least wants to get credit for the win. As he works his way back to the UFC every fight counts and he’s optimistic to show the video to matchmaker Joe Silva to at least account for something.
“I need for this fight to officially go on my record. It would be nice to at least make these fights official for us. Even though we didn’t get paid, and there was all this debacle, 24 guys got in there and they fought their hearts out,” said Marshall.
At this point none of the fighters or managers have been able to get in touch with Tim Fields, who promoted the show. MMAWeekly.com has sent messages to both the Nemesis Fighting e-mail and Fields himself, with no response in days.
The Nemesis Fighting show may go down as one of the biggest disasters in MMA history, and the worst part is those that were involved may walk away with nothing more than a win or a loss on their record and a story to tell.