In the court battle over whether boxer Ricardo Mayorga
is contractually free to pursue his MMA debut against former UFC fighter Din Thomas
at this Saturday's Shine Fights event in North Carolina, a lot may depend on what the definition of the word "bout" is.
Last week, Don King Productions filed a motion in a Florida court for preliminary injunctive relief to stop Mayorga's participation in the Shine Fights 3 pay-per-view event, alleging that Mayorga is violating his exclusive promotional contract with DKP by engaging in the MMA bout.
According to copies of the motion and the separate complaint obtained by MMA Fighting, Don King Productions claims that its contract with Mayorga prevents the fighter from participating in any bouts not promoted by DKP.
At issue, it seems, is whether that contract extends beyond Mayorga's boxing efforts and into his would-be MMA endeavors.
"That's what we're basically trying to defend against, is this claim that we're the boxing promoter and Shine Fights is the MMA promoter," said Alejandro Brito, an attorney for Don King Productions. "The way that we view this contract, especially with regards to Mr. Mayorga, who does not have any experience as a mixed martial artist, is that the language in the contract refers to any bout."
Where things get tricky is when the contract distinguishes bouts from Bouts.
In one section of the promotional agreement signed by Mayorga, the term Bouts is defined as "all professional boxing bouts." Another section states that Mayorga "shall not participate in any bouts other than the Bouts promoted or co-promoted by [Don King Productions]..."
The inclusion of the word bouts, with a lower-case b, is what precludes Mayorga from taking the fight against Thomas, said Brito. That Shine Fights has promoted Mayorga's participation by pointing to his skills as a boxer, he added, only further solidifies the case.
"The statements that have been made by Shine Fights represented an attempt to draw upon Mr. Mayorga's background as a boxer in order to promote this event," said Brito. "He obviously has no background in MMA, so he's going to be utilizing his boxing skills, which is what Don King Productions has been trying to cultivate.
"He's going to use those skills in an MMA bout, but I don't think there's anyone who's going to be fooled into thinking that Mr. Mayorga is going to get down on the ground and grapple and participate in any real, full-fledged mixed martial arts. ...This isn't someone who can really crossover and hold themselves up as a real MMA participant. He's not; he's a boxer."
One of the issues brought up in the complaint is the likelihood that Mayorga will be injured or "perform poorly" in the fight with Thomas, which would then harm DKP's attempts to promote him as a boxer in the future.
The motion points out that Thomas is "an experienced and successful" MMA fighter, while Mayorga has never participated in an MMA bout, which "substantially increases the chances that he will be injured in this MMA event and will result in Mayorga being unable to perform his contractual obligations to DKP."
Potential injury is of particular concern since the motion states that DKP has arranged for a bout between Mayorga and WBA middleweight champ Felix Sturm in August or September. Brito said that though contracts haven't been signed for that fight, Mayorga "was aware that this is something that's potentially being sacrificed as a result of him participating in this event."
A Broward County judge is scheduled to hear the case this Friday at 1:30PM ET.
Shine Fights officials failed to respond to requests for comment.