Proper representation is one of the most important professional positions in the entertainment world today. With millions of dollars at stake and long term careers on the line, athletes have to take the same stance in protecting their career by hiring the correct professionals. No matter what side is the truth, as there are always three of them, Bellator’s recent bad press shows just how important this position has become within the mixed martial arts world.
The last few months have been very ugly as the developments between Bellator and Eddie Alvarez have started to become public. Alvarez, the former lightweight champion for the promotion and perhaps their biggest star, had reached the end of his contract and was looking to get a pay increase with an opportunity to fight for the UFC. Bellator opted to use their matching clause to create a contract that they deemed matched the offer from the UFC to keep them in their cage. Alvarez didn’t agree with the contract language in a variety of areas and the firestorm blew up from that point. Now, both sides are waiting to face off in court and are pointing the finger at each other in the media.
At this point it doesn’t matter who is telling the truth or not as the damage has already been done. Alvarez, who is 29 years old, is now stuck in limbo as he approaches the prime of his career with the opportunity to make more money than he ever has as a prize fighter. He’s a valuable commodity to not only the UFC and Bellator, but other organizations such as The World Series of Fighting would love to have him as a part of their roster. He’s arguably more famous now than he was a few months ago so it is time to capitalize on that popularity. Unfortunately, he’s stuck in this battle that will keep him out of competition for an extended period of time and we’ve all seen the affects that time away from the cage can do to a professional fighter.
Alvarez has an effective management team behind him in Authentic Sports Management. Even though they have only been active since 2010, the company represents 20 big names within the sport that includes fighters such as Alvarez, Anthony Johnson and Rashad Evans. Without them in his corner, this situation would have gone from bad to worse very quickly. While the future of Eddie’s career is in limbo, he still has a proper group of managers which is a lot more than majority of the athletes who participate in mixed martial arts.
Bellator itself will suffer from the bad press as these situations keep popping up. Tyson Nam, Jonathan Brookins and others have had to deal with this type of problem and Alvarez being the biggest name just makes the spotlight shine brighter on the promotion. It will be interesting to see how established stars work with the promotion going forward. Young fighters can perhaps benefit from the exposure without having to worry about the contract implications while prominent names may want to stay away from the long term deal to have more control over their future. Either way, Bellator will suffer from the bad press.
The stories about the lack of pay, questionable releases and mysterious contract stipulations are common in mixed martial arts. Part of this is because the athletes who are dying to compete are not represented by truly trained and experienced sports professionals. Instead, we often see former fighters, friends or family standing in to act as managers. When questions about contract law, sponsorship and other important areas of sports business come up, one must wonder how these individuals have the knowledge or experience base to handle these situations.
Unlike other sports, mixed martial arts managers do not have to complete a certification requirement that you find for other managers such as those that work within the National Football League or Major League Baseball. Imagine going to see a lawyer without any time practicing law. Or a mechanic that didn’t have any training in repairing cars. Would you trust that individual with being able to do their job correctly? Then why should the fighters who risk their health and well being in the cage depend on individuals without such training to do the same thing?
Mixed martial arts is slowly procuring the television and sponsorship deals needed to be considered a mainstream sport. However, the athletes themselves need to step up and do their part which means finding the right type of representation is vital to their career. Yes, this will make media contact and contract negotiations more difficult; but when they are stepping into the cage or ring, that protection needs to be there.