UFC drops Fitch, AKA fighters
A bitterly angry Dana White said Wednesday the Ultimate Fighting Championship has cut highly regarded welterweight contender Jon Fitch and is not going to do business with any fighters who are part of the American Kickboxing Academy team in San Jose, Calif.
The outspoken UFC president said shortly after landing in Hawaii on Wednesday that he no longer wants to work with AKA fighters or those represented by DeWayne Zinkin and Bob Cook.
White said he excepted AKA welterweight Mike Swick from that group because he said Swick called him and told him he wants to fight for the UFC. But Fitch and heavyweight Christian Wellisch were cut on Wednesday, and heavyweight prospect Cain Velasquez and welterweight Josh Koscheck could be next.
“We’re looking for guys who want to work with us and not against us, and frankly I’m just so [expletive] sick of this [expletive] it’s not even funny,” White said from Honolulu, where he flew Wednesday from Toronto to hold a news conference to announce the B.J. Penn-Georges St. Pierre fight for UFC 94 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas.
“Affliction is still out there trying to build its company. Let [Fitch] go work with them. Let him see what he thinks of those [expletives]. [Expletive] him. These guys aren’t partners with us. [Expletive] them. All of them, every last [expletive] one of them.”
Fitch said Wednesday the dispute was over his reluctance to sign a lifetime contract to allow his name and likeness to be used in a video game the UFC is planning with THQ. He said the dispute has nothing to do with money and that he never caused a problem during his time in the UFC.
He said he simply didn’t understand the need to sign a lifetime contract, particularly since it would not pay his family in the event of his death.
“Working for free and selling our rights away for lifetime, that’s a little different,” said Fitch, who said he hasn’t spoken with White but plans to call him. “We tried to negotiate five- or 10-year deals with them, but it wasn’t good enough. It was all or nothing. He wanted our lifetime. He wanted our souls forever.”
White said the AKA fighters “aren’t partners with us” and said they don’t understand what the UFC is trying to do for the sport. White said the UFC’s current success was because of long hours he and partner Lorenzo Fertitta have put in trying to build the company and the sport of mixed martial arts.
White complained that he has to make frequent sacrifices in his personal life and is away from his family for long stretches because of his commitment to growing the UFC. He said the AKA fighters don’t understand the things UFC management is trying to do and said they’ll learn how tough things are in the poor economy.
“There are a lot of guys who help us and work with us and are great partners with us, and they’re the ones we’re going to remember and take care of,” White said. “Do these guys understand what is going on in this world? I’ll tell you, this economy is [expletive] up. It’s totally [expletive] up. It’s bad, real, real bad. The [television] networks are in trouble and don’t have money. The sponsors are in trouble, and they have no money. If they don’t have money, they go out of business.
“It’s a whole other world out there, believe me, and let these guys go out there and see what they find.”
White said he took great care of Fitch and said with bonuses and purse, Fitch made $169,000 for his welterweight title fight loss to St. Pierre at UFC 87 in Minneapolis in August. Fitch (17-3 with 1 no-contest) did not dispute that salary figure. He said the UFC “has taken care of me and you’ve never heard me complain about money. This is a respect thing.”
Fitch said he thought there should room to negotiate on these contracts but said the UFC would not budge.
He said he understood it was highly unlikely that another company would want to put him in a video game but said it was only reasonable that he not tie his rights up for life.
White said he flew to San Jose in the summer to talk with the AKA fighters, but Fitch said the discussion was about a merchandising agreement.
“He wanted us to sign that merchandising agreement, and it was not a very good agreement,” Fitch said. “There was not really a reason for us to sign it. The first thing they brought to us was for us to sign all of our rights away for everything forever. It was for very small compensation, and there was no compensation for family members if we were to die.
“We could die and they could make memorial figurines and stuff and make thousands, millions of dollars, and our families wouldn’t see a penny of it. The way they bring the contracts and stuff to us, I don’t know, it’s just not how business is done.”
Zinkin also represents UFC light heavyweight Chuck Liddell, though Liddell does not fight for AKA. White said he has been “beefing with Zinkin for years” and said he had to call Liddell, one of his closest friends, and tell him to get Zinkin to back off.
According to White, Liddell said Zinkin represented him on sponsorships and he would negotiate his own deals with the UFC.
Fitch said he has been a loyal UFC employee and said, “I’d only like a little bit of respect for the blood I shed for this company.”
White said he has sacrificed more than anyone to build the UFC into the powerhouse it has become and that he’s tired of athletes who don’t want to “get with the program.”
Velasquez, one of the sport’s rising stars, clearly is on the outs with White. White said Zinkin wanted standard language that is part of every UFC fighter’s contract removed from Velasquez’s deal.
“Can you believe that?” White said. “Chuck Liddell has that language in his contract. Randy Couture has it. Anderson Silva has it. And Cain [expletive] Velasquez, with two [expletive] fights, wants us to change it for him? That’s [expletive] nuts. He can get the [expletive] out.
“I’m not a douche bag and I do a lot for these guys, a lot more than any of you will ever know. We’re in a horrible time in the economy now, and every guy with two nickels to rub together is making a run at us. We’ve worked too hard, given too much, to let certain guys come in and [expletive] with that.”
Fitch said he’s not trying to mess with anything and that he simply wants to fight. He said he always has been respectful in all his dealings with the UFC and said he can’t understand the position he finds himself in without ever having spoken to White.
He plans to call White to discuss the situation but wasn’t sure what move to make.
“I’m more than willing to work with them, but I don’t see why we have to give up our whole lives for this,” Fitch said. “Why not a time limit? If we did a 10-year deal with them, is that that unreasonable? I don’t understand how this happened, honestly. It’s tough.”