Luke Rockhold is a former middleweight champion in the UFC – as such he has a lot of experience dealing with UFC brass. He’s getting ready to face Paulo Costa in an anticipated return at UFC 278.
He’s been speaking candidly about a number of hot topics for the promotion. Previously he addressed the fact that the athlete compensation has barely progressed despite the fact that the promotion went up in value quite a bit. Now he’s touching upon another sensitive topic – how UFC is using managers to manipulate athletes into unfavorable situations and subpar compensation.
Rockhold told CBS Sports:
“The UFC uses these two or three managers, we all know who they are, who have lots of key players in the game and those fighters under their banner will never speak up against the UFC. And that’s the UFC’s monopoly, their mafioso tactic.”
Rockhold is likely pointing out that there are plenty of managers who aren’t honoring their fiduciary duty to their clients. A fiduciary duty involves actions taken in the best interests of another person or entity.
Former UFC athlete, Kevin Lee expressed his opinion that the UFC had cut him over the fact he shared a manager with Francis Ngannou – who is in a contentious negotiation with the UFC determined to become a free agent.
Nowadays we have another concerning trend – we even have prominent athletes determined to save a few bucks and try to be their own managers. Dominick Cruz, Sean O’Malley and Colby Covington are some of the names that have recently talked about this. It’s even more pertinent considering that former two time champion Cruz was paid only $175,000 for participation in a main event.
Similarly, Colby Covington got compensated far below Jorge Masvidal for their main event in part due to the fact that he fired his manager.
One of the jobs of the manager should be to seek sponsorships for their athletes but the UFC has a tight rope over the market sanctioning anything from walkout shoes to post event media junket wardrobe.
Once again, Francis Ngannou is a notable example of an athlete who has an actual manager at work. Martin had secured a number of sponsorships for Ngannou including with a luxury watch brand and a casual gym wear company. But for a manager to be efficient he also needs backing. Martin is an employee of CAA – a direct rival of UFC owner Endeavor (previously WME) and a real hollywood power player unlike most MMA focused management companies.
Tony Ferguson shared some interesting nuggets about his own mismanagement story during the media junket for his clash with Michael Chandler. Ferguson was managed by a company in which Conor McGregor is a co-owner at his peak. This is another thing that’s explicitly illegal – as detailed by the Miller Ayala act.
But all these infractions mean nothing if the athletes aren’t prepared to come together, form a union or demand responsibility from their own managers.
Rockhold wasn’t keen on being more direct about the tactics UFC utilizes behind the scenes instead he once again reiterated that bonus structure doesn’t accurately reflect the growth the UFC has gone through for the last decade.
“Imagine if the bonuses were a hundred grand, imagine how much more attention that would get from the public than fifty grand. Fifty g’s like, ‘Shut the f*** up, dude.’ Realistically, those bonues should grow with the company and we should be getting half a million dollar bonuses.”