Matt Mitrione is trying to change the way the MMA world does business.
Recently, some of the free agent signings for Bellator have been vocal in the media about the benefits of setting off from the UFC, citing more financial opportunities and more flexibility. In an interview with Inside MMA, Mitrione sat down with Mauro Ranallo and Bas Rutten to talk about his reasons for leaving the premier fighting promotion.
"The biggest part [of leaving the UFC] isn't the money part, it's the freedom to go get your own money. You can now express the fact that the emperor is not wearing any clothes...It's sponsorships, it's being able to voice an opinion without fear of getting your back end bonus that may or may not come anyway."
The UFC has a somewhat dubious history of dealing with malcontents; for instance they released Jon Fitch for a total of 24 hours for refusing to sign a lifetime release of his likeness rights to be used in UFC video games. For Mitrione, a boisterous and outspoken personality, there is a very obvious benefit to not being subject to those kinds of repercussions. However, as with all things, money was a major factor, specifically the Reebok deal which effectively ended a majority of fighter sponsorships.
"It's just in general like, who the hell are you to take away my money, my sponsorship money, to take that away from me without even a conversation about it? Knowing that we don't fight hard for our contract money because the contract money was far outweighed by the sponsor money. But now all of the sudden you take that away from me and now I'm depending upon the 8 and 8 [thousand dollar, show and win purses] that I never fought on and now it's going to be tooth and nail to get it bumped up to 12 and 12 or 10 and 10. We had no say in that and that's what hurt."
This is a two-way street though. Mitrione's ability to monetize his name comes predominantly from his time in the UFC. Mitrione had zero fights before being selected to participate in season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter. He wasn't brought in because he was a great prospect but because of his personality and football background. Up until March, his entire career has been with the UFC and thus the vast majority of his name value can be traced back to the organization, a fact which Mitrione understands.
"I don't mean to make this like I'm anti-UFC because I'm not at all. The UFC gave me an opportunity. I was a nobody. I was a creep on the show and they gave me an opportunity and I capitalized it. I'm thankful for that opportunity. I'm not unappreciative, I'm just outspoken about stuff that I feel like we as fighters need to be vocal about."
But being appreciative for getting his start is not the same as being appreciative for things were handled later and Mitrione takes umbrage with, what is in his view, the UFC lining its own pockets at the expense of its fighters. In the most interesting part of the interview, Mitrione talks about the sponsorship tax the UFC implemented before the Reebok deal and how it was presented as a boon to fighters while really just being a benefit to the UFC.
"When they first hit us over the head with the sponsorship tax, the 50 [thousand dollars]. They said that was to prevent other organizations from coming in and not paying out their bills; like Fear the Fighter. They come out, they promise all this money to all these people and they don't pay but they got 7 or 8 shows worth of exposure...
"Originally it started out with Affliction. The started the organization and built their name off of the UFC's back. Well that could have easily been handled by just saying ‘we have a non-compete. If you're going to put your name on anything from our athletes or our organization [then there is a] non-compete for 7 years, can't create a competing promotion or whatever else.' That could have been easily handled that way but then they did a $50,000 tax on top of that.
"Well why didn't they take that tax and put it into an account and let interest accrue on it from all these organizations or companies that want to pay in or advertise, let it gain interest, and then anytime a company like Fear the Fighter or whoever else bails out or flops or doesn't pay their bills then that fighter can get X amount of money back out of the interest account...That way we are still getting something and we aren't getting hosed for it. The UFC's not capitalizing on that, we as fighters are...Instead of padding their pockets why not give it to us because we are the ones who are [giving our] blood, sweat, and tears. We're your product."
While Mitrione's answer seems rather convoluted (and doesn't seem to get to the heart of the issue wherein smaller companies were priced out of sponsoring fighters due to the high tax) he demonstrates that there is usually more than one way to skin a cat and, in his mind, the UFC frequently opt to choose the method which benefits them most rather than their fighters. And this it seems is what precipitated Mitrione's departure from the UFC.
"So it's not necessarily the sponsor money or the money that Bellator might pay. It's the fact that we can cause a change. And I understand that's dangerous talk but it's relevant."
You can view the entire interview below.
5 MUST-READ STORIES
Condit left out. Dana White says Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley is 'more than likely' for UFC 201 or 202.
Fight Pass. Rafael dos Anjos will defend his lightweight championship against Eddie Alvarez on Fight Pass in July.
Relentless. Jon Jones doesn't think Daniel Cormier is mentally tough enough to fight him at Madison Square Garden.
Let's dance. Dana White likes the idea of Glover Teixeira vs. Anthony Johnson.
And another one. Combate Americas signs with Fight Pass.
EXTRA CREDIT READING
USADA. Karim Zidan of BloodyElbow talks about meldonium, the drug Islam Machakhev was pulled off the recent card for, and the controversy surrounding it.
DJ vs Cejudo Countdown.
And here is the promo for JBJ's return. Get hype.
I have no idea what he is talking about with DJ but man he is going to be fun to watch at 135.
If you haven't seen this video yet, check it out. Apparently Chiesa tapped one of the best grapplers in the UFC while prairie dogging it which is some type of incredible
RFA had some really fun fights this past weekend. Here are the highlights.
Always a good post-fight show
As always, here's the post-fight presser from the past weekend.
Sign me up for this one.
I don't dance, I fight!!!— Anthony Johnson (@Anthony_Rumble) April 17, 2016
Uncrowned lightweight champ.
Yep, Khabib is still terrifying #UFCTampa— Angela Hill (@AngieOverkill) April 17, 2016
The saga continues.
Rashad has a great legacy in MMA. I hope people don't forget that.— Julie Kedzie (@julesk_fighter) April 17, 2016
Shayna Bazler respecting Imperator Furi-Rose-a
This appears to be the case. Benny Dariush is about as legit of a black belt as it gets and he still tap-tap-taparooed.
That looks all kinds of fun.
Held up better than Bethe.
Been talking to that guy at Anderson's gym?
'I see their knavery. This is to make an ass of me.'
Just horsing around! pic.twitter.com/Y3EijUPMNS— Sage Northcutt (@sagenorthcutt) April 15, 2016
Rafael dos Anjos (25-7-0) vs. Eddie Alvarez (27-4-0); UFC Fight Night, July 7.
Fedor Emelianenko (35-4-1) vs. Fabio Maldonado (22-9-0); Rizin FF, June 17.
Kevin 'Kimbo Slice' Ferguson (6-2-0) vs. James Thompson (20-16-0); Bellator 158, July 16.
Josh Koscheck (17-10-0) vs. Paul Daley (38-13-2); Bellator 158, July 16.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
2015: UFC on Fox 15: Machida vs Rockhold took place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. In the main event, Luke Rockhold dominated former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida before choking him out in the second round with a rear-naked choke, earning himself a shot at the middleweight championship.
The event was co-headlined by a rematch between Ronaldo Jacare Souza and Chris Camozzi. Originally the bout was supposed to be between Souza and Yoel Romero but Romero was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury. Again things did not go well for Camozzi who verbally submitted to an armbar in the first round.
2014: Bellator 117 was held at the Mid-American Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The event was headlined by a fight between Douglas Lima and Rick Hawn for the vacant Bellator welterweight belt which Lima won via TKO in the second round when Hawn's corner stopped the bout.
2009: UFC 97 took place at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. In the main event, Anderson Silva successfully defended his middleweight title against Thales Leites, winning a 5 round unanimous decision in a bout best remembered for Thales Leites refusing to standing with Silva by flopping to his back amidst a chorus of boos.
Elsewhere on the card, Mauricio ‘Shogun' Rua defeated Chuck Liddell with punches in the first round and one time title shot hopeful TJ Grant made his UFC debut winning a split decision over Ryo Chonan.
1999: Chris Lytle had his second professional fight, a draw with Osami Shibura at Pancrase: Breakthrough 4 in Yokohama, Japan.
1985: UFC light heavyweight Gian Villante was born.
1984: UFC and Pride veteran Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou was born.
Think I missed a spot? Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.