With EliteXC officially out of the fold, what does the current landscape of Mixed Martial Arts fighting look like? How will it affect the looming entrance of sports agents into the mix? Urijah Faber (pictured right), subjectively known as the top fighter in the WEC (owned by the same company that owns UFC), is safe to earn a substantial amount of money at least in the short term, but overall, he does not like what he sees.
Sports agents earn their value due to a unique ability to negotiate deals at the higher end of the market. The main tool used is leverage. Leverage is often formed when there is some sort of competition and an agent can pit one entity up against at least one other. Let’s use basketball as an example. An average NBA player in free agency can have his agent work potential deals with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. If both teams are interested in the player, the price may be driven up. Additionally, with going overseas as a viable option, an additional form of leverage may be used.
Now take that example and try to apply it to MMA. The IFL is gone and EliteXC quickly followed the path to doom. What’s left? With little competition, Zuffa, LLC has been able to dictate most of the terms to its UFC and WEC fighters. The end result could be something very similar to what is currently happening in the bowling world. There, the PBA is supreme. If you do not want to sign their standard boilerplate contract, then peace out. Now do you understand why Faber is concerned? He is making $40,000 per fight, but is smart enough to realize that such figures are not set in stone. With competition dwindling down, his salary may fall along with it.
Unfortunately, there is little that an agent can do in this space. Typically, an agent can negotiate endorsement/sponsorship deals for any athlete, but terms of “playing” contracts are usually only dealt with for those athletes who participate in team sports. You do not see Mark Steinberg of IMG negotiating Tiger Woods’ deal with the PGA. There really is no deal to broker. However, since MMA fighters are paid per fight, perhaps they could use an agent to negotiate those individual prizes with guys like Dana White. I see MMA as a large opportunity for agents in the future. Their role will be enhanced if some form of legitimate competition to the UFC and WEC arises.