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Robert Whiteford wants out of his ACB deal: ‘They’re playing puppet master with my career’

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Robert Whiteford hopes to be released from his exclusive deal with the ACB due to the lack of communication he has had with the promotion and his lack of faith in the organization moving forward.

The former UFC fighter has taken to social media over the last week to vent his frustration with ACB.

Whiteford has competed three times for ACB and contested in two main events for the Russian organization. All three of his ACB bouts took place in the U.K.

After hosting just two shows outside of Russia from 2012 to 2015, ACB began to expand its brand in Europe in 2016 with four events outside of Russia in Georgia, Poland, Scotland and Netherlands. In 2017, the promotion hosted 17 events outside of Russia, including events in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Australia.

In 2018, ACB cancelled four events in London, Cyprus, Kazan and Sweden — two of which Whiteford claims he was offered fights on. Because he had an inside line on the state of the promotion’s affairs at the time, the Scottish featherweight refused the offers knowing that the events would likely be cancelled.

“There had literally been zero contact since I fought on that show in Nottingham,” Whiteford told MMA Fighting.

“I’ve got Russian friends, so I knew things had gone bad [for ACB] since then. [ACB] were trying to book me on shows, they were trying to book me on the London card and I knew things were going bad. Then they tried to book me on the Sweden card, and because the London card had been cancelled and some other shows, I didn’t take it. That [Swedish] card eventually got cancelled too, like I knew it would, so it didn’t make sense for me to be booked on those shows.

“What would have happened if I didn’t have that information? I would’ve put a lot of money into a camp and then I’d have nothing to show for it. It’s f*cking bullsh*t and I’m so sick of the situation, it’s unbelievable.”

Whiteford is adamant that his deal was specifically geared towards the promotion’s broader European expansion. ACB currently have two Russian events on its schedule following the aforementioned cancellation of four European events outside of Russia. Whiteford feels as though ACB has completely changed its end of the bargain, and therefore he should be released from his contract.

“I’m signed to a six-fight deal. At the time, I didn’t want to sign for the six fights, but [ACB] were adamant that everything was fine, so I signed. And don’t get me wrong, up until this had happened, it was going well. I’ve fought on three ACB shows, I was main event for two of them and they’ve paid me good money,” he explained.

“The only thing is they signed me for these six fights, specifically for a European schedule and now the European schedule is not happening. Even though that’s all off, they’re trying to keep me in the deal and make me fight in Russia, which was something that was never discussed.

“Things have completely changed on their end of the deal, and now it’s f*cking me over. What am I supposed to do? Sit quiet while everyone else makes money and pretend everything is fine? Hold my tongue in case I offend someone? It’s f*cking shocking, honestly.”

Whiteford’s points of contact with ACB were newly appointed promoters in 2018, Carl Prince and Bryan Lacey. He claims he had no contact with either of the promoters until he took to Twitter to explain his situation last week. After posting the tweet, Whiteford was informed that ACB were trying to book him for a fight. However, the fight was on short notice and the event fell during a period of time that he was unable to compete.

“I’ve been dealing with Carl Prince and Bryan Lacey, but trying to have any communication with them is as bad as trying to talk to the guys in Russia. They haven’t given me any clarity on the situation and it wasn’t until I sent out a tweet that Carl Prince got onto me. He came on and said, ‘We’ve offered you a fight this morning’.

“Since this situation came up, I signed with Heavy Duty Management to try and sort this situation out because, as I’ve said, it’s been impossible for me to get a word with anyone. Two weeks ago, when I signed with Heavy Duty Management, I told them I was going to Ibiza in three weeks’ time. The same morning I told them I was going on holiday, I sent out the tweet about my situation. [ACB] came back with a fight offer for when I was in Ibiza and I would’ve been taking it on two weeks’ notice…and it was in Russia. How the f*ck is that a fight offer?” he asked.

“I’ve done nothing wrong to any of these people,” Whiteford added. “They’re playing puppet master with my career now and it’s shocking. If the promotion was still going the way it was, this wouldn’t be a problem, but that’s not the case. Why try to f*ck a fighter over and hold him ransom?”

Although he wants a full release, Whiteford claims that ACB have only a offered him a one-fight release at this time.

“The morning after I put out that tweet, [ACB] said they would release me for one fight, but [ACB] would have to agree to the fight. What promotion is going to get behind me for one fight when they know I have to go back to ACB and they have to basically agree to who I fight? A full release is what I want, what else can I do?”

ACB was given an opportunity to reply to Whiteford’s claims by MMA Fighting. The promotion insisted that Whiteford’s contract did not specify that his fights would take place outside of Russia, as part of ACB’s broader European expansion.

“Nowhere in any discussion or contract has it ever been agreed that Robert Whiteford would only fight for ACB in Europe. Russia being the biggest country in Europe.”

The promotion stated that Whiteford made no attempts to gain clarity on his situation, but did reveal that the Scottish featherweight was offered a fight in early September in Russia. ACB claims that it was only after the fight was offered that Whiteford’s release was requested. Instead of a full release, ACB offered to release Whiteford for one fight.

“Robert Whiteford did not make any contact (yet alone multiple attempts) with either Carl Prince or Bryan Lacey regarding him asking for his release. They received no direct message from him to this effect on this subject,” stated ACB in a statement released to MMA Fighting.

“Carl Prince has been in contact with Robert Whiteford’s new manager. This contact was made when Robert was offered a fight for ACB at ACB 89 on September 8th. This fight offer was turned down and it was at this point his manager asked about the chance of releasing him from his contract. We responded that his contract still stands but we could look at a single fight release as this year’s schedule for ACB has been reduced. It was AFTER this contact that Whiteford posted his status on Twitter. Following Carl Prince making direct contact with Robert, Carl received an email from Robert Whiteford with an apology about the status saying he posted it under instruction from his new management.”

ACB denies that Whiteford or his management told the promotion about a period of unavailability due to a holiday pertaining to the fight he was offered on short notice in early September.

“Robert Whiteford (or his team) never informed anybody of any period of unavailability.”

As for Whiteford wanting to be released from his contract due to the shift in ACB’s focus, the promotion insists all of its contracted fighters are being offered a one-fight release. ACB hopes to prove that the brand is still “live and kicking” with its next two events in Krasnodar and Moscow, which fall in September and November.

“With the change in schedule for ACB this year we are open to agreeing fight releases for our contracted athletes (As discussed with Robert Whiteford manager already). We also know that Robert’s new manager has another deal on the table from another promotion for Robert and is trying to leverage out of this contract so they can sign the new one. ACB see Robert as a big part of our featherweight picture and wish to keep him on board moving forward and to the conclusion of his contract. We have always been fair with Robert and we have invested a large amount, not just financially but promotionally, in him already including making him main event in two of our UK events. For his current contract we also met his terms when he asked that his purse be a flat fee per fight not under the usual ‘show and win’ model. This is not our usual practice but we value Robert and believe he can play a big part in the promotion going forward so we were happy to agree on this to secure his signature.

“We are disappointed that this has been made a public discussion but we appreciate the chance to reply to the above statements. The beauty of this sport is that the athletes engage so well with their fans via social media but there is always more to a story than the characters allow on a Twitter post.

“We also appreciate, that with the well documented issues that ACB has had over the last few months, that people, including our fighters, may have questions about the stability of the promotion moving forward. We hope that the strength of the two events we are delivering for the rest of the year (on September 8th in Krasnodar and November 10th in Moscow) will show that we are still very much alive and kicking. We are already planning our 2019 schedule, which we will release news on in the near future.”