As I initially wrote about here, the UFC is ambitiously attempting to enter the merchandising arena by essentially stripping fighters of all rights to their likeness, in perpetuity. Multiple sources have indicated that UFC officials are now sending letters to fighters who have not yet signed the Merchandising Rights Agreement. The letter warns fighters that if they do not return the executed Merchandising Rights Agreement by the end of the week, the offer will be rescinded, and the fighter will not be included in the UFC’s licensing program.
Even more outrageous, UFC officials are directly contacting fighters, instead of the fighters’ selected agents. Fighters are told that they are hearing only one side of the story from their selected representatives, and that the UFC’s Merchandising Rights program really is a great deal. By not signing the Merchandising Rights Agreement, fighters are told they are leaving money on the table.
The UFC likes to compare itself to league sports, as do many members of the media. In all other leagues, such direct contact with an athlete represented by an agent is blatantly unethical. Such fighters have selected agents with reason—they trust and respect the counsel provided. Attempts to circumvent this representation by first pressuring, and then contacting in an attempt to engage in dialogue reeks of bad faith. Beware.
Fighters—speak to your agents.
Rob Maysey is a licensed attorney in the states of Arizona, California, and Minnesota. He received his BA in Politics from Whitman College and his JD from Cornell Law School. He has followed the sport of mixed martial arts closely since being introduced to Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 1998 by a law school classmate.
***Edited to change “wreaks” to the correct word, “reeks.”