Reported today on Sherdog, Zuffa has decided to cancel backstage credentials to select managers and representatives of UFC and WEC fighters. Now before I go off, I must admit my own bias with respect to this issue. As a practicing attorney, my job in many ways relies on my clients having access to me, whether they have a specific right to do so, or whether such access is based on professional courtesy and understanding.
However, it appears that Zuffa recognizes neither. On its face, this appears to be another step towards separating a fighter from his manager, and removing any barriers to its contractual bullying (someone ought to write a letter to “Mayhem”). Backroom contract extensions, sponsorship deals, and bonuses are all things for which a professional fighter needs a professional representative. Without effective representation, fighters would be forced to take valuable time away from training, conditioning, and preparing to deal with all of the paperwork, something in which few fighters have a good understanding or interest.
Cutting out the manager also seems to contradict one of Zuffa’s business-related goals. Zuffa needs to project the image of professionalism and dedication of its fighters to combat charges of brutality from politicians and mainstream-media types, as well as to secure coveted and legitimate sports-related sponsorships. From touting the athletic accomplishments of Olympic-caliber and NCAA Champion wrestlers, to former college and professional football players, overcoming the image of a fighter as a blood-thirsty bar-fighting lunatic is nearly as important to Zuffa’s business as the number of pay-per-view buys.
To put it simply, if Zuffa wants to portray its fighters as professional athletes, it should start treating them as such.