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Acting as his own manager, Misha Cirkunov details roller-coaster contract negotiations with UFC

Misha Cirkunov is one again under UFC contract, having re-signed a deal with the promotion earlier this month. However, the road was not a smooth as he expected.

Cirkunov, a 30-year-old who is widely considered to be one of the most promising up-and-comers in the light heavyweight division, saw his negotiations hit the public eye in February when UFC president Dana White criticized Cirkunov for “flaking out” on a new deal with the organization. White added that the UFC was “not interested” in Cirkunov any longer and indicated that the 205-pounder was free to look elsewhere for employment.

Ultimately, the two sides came together on a new contract just weeks after White’s statements, but nonetheless, Cirkunov — a fighter who does not employ a manager and instead negotiated the deal himself — remains puzzled about his boss’ words.

“Honestly, I don’t really understand what ‘flake’ means, because I never really flake on anything,” Cirkunov said Monday on The MMA Hour. “If I say I’m going to show up, I always show up. If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do something. We were negotiating the contract, and I guess maybe I didn’t get back as fast as I should’ve, or I don’t know; I don’t know exactly why I kinda pissed off Dana, but I obviously don’t want to be on his bad side, because we all knew things can turn kinda south — or north, however you want to look at it — really quick, so I’m just happy that we had a really nice chat with (UFC matchmaker) Mick Maynard.

“We chatted for 15 or 20 minutes and then we came to an agreement. I’m just happy that it was easy to talk to him, because with Dana, it’s a little bit nerve-wracking talking with him, because you say something he doesn’t like and all of a sudden, I thought we were buddies and next thing, maybe we’re not buddies. I don’t know. I’m just happy that there’s a matchmaker, Mick Maynard, and I can just deal with him, and Dana, I can show him great fights.”

Cirkunov (13-2) said he chooses not to employ a manager because he has yet to find one that brings something worthwhile to the table. He explained that he used a manger once in the past, but ultimately he felt as though he wasn’t getting enough out of the relationship to justify the expense.

Cirkunov also repeatedly credited new UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard for helping to restart negotiations with the UFC after White’s public salvo.

“I e-mailed Mick and then he called me and we had a nice chat,” Cirkunov said. “I always wanted to fight in the UFC, I just asked for maybe a little bit more money, and I guess Dana got pissed off at that. It’s not a big deal. I’m just happy that everything kinda got smoothed out and there’s no kinda bad feelings.

“It was a little bit nerve-wracking couple of weeks, just in terms of when they said I flaked out and everything, because I knew I didn’t. And it was kinda like for two weeks I didn’t have a job. ... I want to fight and there’s a lot of great up-and-comers at the 205 division now, and I don’t want to be wasting time. I don’t want to be taking a long, long break. I want to always in action, and not fighting for awhile, you can get rusty. So I don’t want to get rusty. I want be in the mix.”

With the ink dried on his new UFC contract, Cirkunov isn’t wasting any time. He is slated to face No. 8-ranked light heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir on May 28 at UFC Fight Night 109 in Stockholm, Sweden. The UFC announced the bout Monday, and Cirkunov said he is content to simply get back on track under the terms of his new deal.

“It’s a nice deal,” Cirkunov said. “It’s a six-fight deal, a bunch of fights, and I’m happy. I’m happy to be part of the show. I’ve been getting a couple of other deals (offered), but I was not able to look into joining any other shows or anything. Like I said, I wanted some time, some air to clear out, and then just to talk with the UFC. I already put in four good performances and I just want to keep that going and just be part of the most respected show.”

Cirkunov added that he has not spoken with White about his comments since re-signing with the UFC.

“It’s nothing personal with Dana,” Cirkunov said. “I know he’s like a great businessman and all of that. It’s just, in my case, I think it’s a little bit easier for me to deal with Mick Maynard, because with Dana, sometimes he’s a little bit harsh in a way. I don’t want to be burning bridges with him, especially because I’m negotiating for Misha Cirkunov as a manager. So it’s kind of just a weird situation, and I’m just happy all of that has passed. Now it’s kinda like, oh, I have to concentrate just on the fights themselves and that’s kinda how I feel.”

Considering the dearth of viable prospects rising up the ranks at 205 pounds, Cirkunov could be in prime position for a big fight with a win at UFC Fight Night 109. The Toronto resident is a perfect 4-0 inside the Octagon, with a highlight reel of impressive finishes over Daniel Jolly, Alex Nicholson, Ion Cutelaba, and Nikita Krylov. One more victory over Oezdemir and Cirkunov may very well be in line for a shot against one of the division’s best.

But that is a conversation to be had after UFC Fight Night 109. For now, Cirkunov is just looking forward to being back in the mix and putting this chapter of his career behind him.

“I got a little bit more (money than the UFC initially offered), closer to kinda what I wanted,” Cirkunov said. “So, I think things worked out for me. Of course, you can always get something better and better and better. But given the position that I was in, and the things that I’ve done, I think it was a fair deal and I’m happy with it. And now I can leave all that behind and just kinda concentrate on just fighting.”

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