Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fighters Lose in More Ways Than One

Jay Hieron was all set to meet British fighter Paul "Semtex" Daley at Affliction: Trilogy.

The former IFL Welterweight champion and member of Xtreme Couture had already put in the work and gotten prepared when news of Affliction's collapse came yesterday afternoon.

While the MMA world is trying to forecast who will land where, which fighters will fill current vacancies on other cards and everything else, one very salient point that is being somewhat overlooked was underscored by Hieron in an interview with 5 Ounces of Pain:

“We all put everything on hold… paid a lot of money for training… and I have a lot of bills and no paycheck.”

As much fun as a may be to speculate about a possible storm of Affliction-contracted fighters now descending upon the UFC, sometimes real life is what needs to take precedent and this is one of those times.

In addition to losing an opportunity to further showcase his skills and push his winning streak to six, Hieron also loses out on a paycheck, as does everyone else.

Though there are opportunities out there for Hieron - he stated in the interview that he was interested in taking Joe Riggs' place opposite Nick Diaz on the Strikeforce card - it still doesn't change the fact that after putting in months of work and stacks of cash to training and prepare, Hieron and everyone else on the Affliction card is left with a pocket full of lint and a hand full of bills.

Clearly, the rapid demise of Affliction could not have been foreseen.

As I said on the latest Watch Kalib Run podcast, if you had told me a week ago that in the span of seven days Josh Barnett would test positive and Affliction would not only cancel their show, but cease operations as a fight promoter, I would have called you crazy.

But that is exactly what happened.

We can't change the past, but we can certainly use it to help us improve the future and this situation offers an opportunity to once again look at how fighters are compensated.

I don't mean in the sense of "fighters need to be paid more" or stirring up conversations about a Fighters Union or things of that nature. While those big picture issues certainly need to be discussed, more immediate and smaller scale possibilities are out there.

For instance, a fighter's "show pay," the dollar amount agreed upon for the fighter turning up and taking part in their scheduled fight, is all but guaranteed. If you're in the building the night of the fight, you're getting a paycheck.

Outside of last minute injuries sustained in training, 99.9% of fighters contracted to fight are going to turn up, so would providing a portion of that "show pay" in advance be an option?

In smaller shows and fringe promotions, the answer is obviously no, as finances are just not readily available to meet that kind of monetary demand. But what about in organizations like the UFC and Strikeforce?

Even if the total amounted to a combined $100,000 for a 50% payout of a fighter's "show pay" in advance, that number isn't going to cripple either of those organizations, but having that money would make a world of difference in the fighters' lives.

Obviously, the situation is more complex than it reads; provisions would have to be made in regards to injuries and wording introduced into contracts to ensure said fighters would pay back any advanced money should they fail to meet their obligations, but the base idea has legs, does it not?

While Tom Atencio has certainly lost a slew of money in the brief time that Affliction was been in the promotions game, he also has a lucrative clothing line to help buoy his financial situation and a newly-inked deal to bring that clothing line back to the Octagon.

But for fighters like Jay Hieron, this is how they make their living.

Fighting pays the bills and when a much-needed paycheck is suddenly taken off the table, all those bills don't just disappear.

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