The reps now say a lawsuit is likely to recover money promised to participants.
“We believe [the organizers] breached the agreement, and all of our guys have been relying on this,” manager Lex McMahon, who represents nine fighters scheduled for the expo, told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “We believe these guys were not honest with us at all.”
A bevy of UFC fighters were advertised to appear at “The MMA Show Live,” which was scheduled for this weekend, May 12-13, at National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England. The expo promised training seminars, autograph sessions, and a marketplace for MMA-related wares.
Among those to billed to appear: Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Rashad Evans, Kenny Florian and Thiago Silva. At one point, the attendee list boasted a total of 54 MMA personalities.
But on Monday, the expo’s website was replaced with a press release that said the show was postponed to Oct. 20-21 due to “circumstances beyond our control.”
“We would like to apologise to disappointed fans for postponing the show and we would like to thank everyone for their support and understanding, as we are deeply disappointed in having to make this decision,” the release stated.
Refund-seekers were directed to a ticket company in charge of sales for the event. A second expo, The Martial Arts Show Live, is proceeding at the same time and location as MMA Show Live.
Fighter reps said they found out about the cancelation online or through the media. When they attempted to contact organizers, they were given murky answers about the reasons for the sudden change.
“They asked me to bear with them, that they were going to come up with an amicable resolution,” said Sam Spira, who represents UFC Hall of Famer Couture. “They weren’t really clear on what happened. They just said that it was something that was unforeseen that was beyond their control. They used the term ‘postponed,’ but to me, it was the same thing as canceled.”
Said McMahon of Paul Clifton, one of the organizers: “He basically said, ‘Sorry.’ It was really an unacceptable response.”
Indications of trouble surfaced prior to the cancelation. McMahon said his clients received a series of emails that resembled flight confirmations only to find the tickets unbooked. Couture, who was scheduled to fly to Birmingham following his commentary duties at this past weekend’s UFC on FOX 3 event, wasn’t given a confirmation and flew back to Las Vegas before organizers ceased communications, Spira said.
An attempt by one organizer to secure a sponsorship through Spira from Lion’s Gate, the studio behind the forthcoming “The Expendables 2″ in which Couture stars, was unsuccessful. Spira said three proposals from the organizer offered “numbers that kept going down.”
During initial communication with the organizers, Spira was told 24,000 tickets already had been sold to the event and that 30,000 were expected by the weekend of the event. Additionally, organizer Liam Fisher, a former executive with British MMA promotion BAMMA, said that the expo had the backing of burgeoning Asian fight promotion ONE FC. (A press rep for ONE FC forwarded questions to ONE FC CEO Victor Cui, who responded, “We had nothing to do with the event. Liam Fisher was never staff of ONE FC. He was a freelance agent that had also secured sponsorships for us.”)
McMahon, meanwhile, was assured that more than 15,000 tickets had been sold. He was told the expo was backed by the a company affiliated with The Martial Arts Show. He also was told the company had secured sponsorship from “The Expendables 2.”
“If you sold 15,000-plus tickets, you had the money to put on the show,” he said. “The UFC didn’t even sell 20,000 tickets to their expo, so it seemed a bit disingenuous to me.”
Financial losses for Couture, who had tacked promotional stops for his book “The Last Round” to his itinerary abroad, total in the high five figures, Spira said. McMahon declined to comment on his fighters’ losses but said it’s a “considerable number.” Wire transfers set for Tuesday never came through.
“They were front-loading this event, and they were looking to bring in a sponsor,” McMahon said. “My belief is that they didn’t have the funds. They never had the funds.”
Nevertheless, both reps say they have executed contracts with organizers and expect to be compensated, not only for the agreed appearance fee but for the use of fighters’ likenesses in promotional materials. Couture may join the fight on behalf of other fighters out money.
“We’ve got 50 guys who have been stiffed,” Spira said. “I don’t think we’re going to let this one go.”
Fisher said he’s had his personal address posted online and received death threats since the postponement, he wrote in an email sent Tuesday to MMAjunkie.com.
“As a result, I am spending the rest of the week with my family and dealing with the fact that I have wasted six months of my life, with no pay,” he wrote.
In a statement on his Facebook account, Fisher stated that he learned of the postponement the same day as the press release and pointed to Clifton, who issued the release without his approval.
Fisher stated Clifton is the director of MA Inc., a U.K.-based MMA management company (not to be confused with the U.S.-based MMA Inc.).
“Paul … informed me yesterday that a major contractor had pulled out, making it impossible for the show to proceed,” Fisher wrote. “I was informed by Paul that the show was being postponed but not canceled.
“I was assured that Paul and his team were going to speak to every fighter, manager, member of staff and exhibitor involved before the press release went out, and I was advised to stay off my Facebook and Twitter accounts so they could manage the situation in conjunction with their PR agency.
“Secondly, I would also like to remind people that my company, Split Decision, worked on the content of The MMA Show Live in partnership with MA Inc., and I would like to reiterate that I had no final say in the postponement of the show.”
Clifton could not be reached for comment at the time of this writing.
MA Inc.’s website states: “With over 38 years working within martial arts, when you choose MA Inc. you choose the most successful promotional force in the industry, a world wide brand with a proven track record and a reputation as ‘the’ market leaders.”
Fisher wrote today that he won’t be involved in the October event.
(Pictured: Randy Couture)
article via MMA Junkie
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