‘Cabbage’ Suspended in Wargods Contract Dispute

By Loretta Hunt Feb 23, 2009
The California State Athletic Commission suspended Wesley “Cabbage” Correira last week for failing to satisfy a one-fight contract to face Buddy Roberts at a co-promoted Wargods and Ken Shamrock Productions event on Feb. 13 in Fresno, Calif.

Correira (19-14) pulled out backstage an hour before the scheduled bout at the Selland Arena, he said after he learned the promotion would be cutting his fight purse in half to cover last-minute costs for his state-required medical tests.

The 30-year-old Hawaiian known for his granite chin told Sherdog.com on Friday that he’d been issued a letter from the regulatory agency late last week, stating that he must hold up his end of an agreement he signed with the California-based promotion before he would be licensed to fight anywhere else in the state again.

A Wargods representative said the four-time UFC veteran will be asked to headline the promotion’s next event on May 30 in San Diego, though Correira was slated to face Lavar Johnson for the vacant Palace Fighting Championship heavyweight title on May 8 in Lemoore, Calif. PFC promoter Christian Printup could not be immediately reached for comment, though the event is held on sovereign land and not overseen by the CSAC.

The circumstances leading to Correira’s withdrawal from the Feb. 13 bout are compounded by a host of “he said-he said” accusations between promoter and fighter.

Correira had a laundry list of grievances with the promotion, including a lack of per diems, spotty transportation for the fighters, and little notice given for airplane flights to and from the event.

Correira said the final straw came when a CSAC official told him at the arena that half of his show purse would be withheld by Wargods to cover his medical testing –- something Correira said had not been negotiated beforehand between fighter and promotion.

“If I knew they were they were going to take it out, I could have done my own medicals much cheaper,” Correira said.

The Wargods rep said the Hilo resident was given ample time to turn in his paperwork on his own, which is generally customary, but missed his deadlines. Corriera said he was given five hour’s notice to make his flight for the mainland, and had to cancel two of his tests scheduled that day.

“We had to fly him in and get [the medical tests] done over here. It was the only way we could ensure to save that fight,” said Wargods’ marketing and public relations representative, who asked not to be identified by name. “It was his responsibility to get his medicals, but we had to have one of our promoters drive him around and get his medicals, of course, making our job harder.”

The rep said Correira was informed at the weigh-ins on Thursday that his purse would be deducted for the medical costs, and didn’t protest it until fight night. Correira said he only agreed to have the licensing fees for his two cornermen taken from his purse.

The Wargods representative said every attempt was made to appease Correira on fight night.

“Even Marcelo Rivas, one of the promoters, offered to not take that money out of the purse, but that still wasn’t good enough for him,” said the representative. “[Rivas] even asked the commission if they would let him increase the pay and that wouldn’t work. We tried to do everything to make him happy.”

Correira corroborated that the last-minute negotiation took place, but the promoters would not provide the new terms in writing when the fighter requested it.

“They never approached me with the papers, and I’ve been kicked around way too much by promoters by just taking their word,” said Correira.

Correira, who was contracted for $4,000 to fight with a $2,000 win bonus, said the medical costs totaled half of his purse. The promotion said the tests ran closer to $1,600.

The fighter said he was informed by the commission at the event that he would be suspended if he didn’t compete.

“[The commission] asked me what happened, but they said I had signed a contract and it was between me and the promoter,” said Correira.

The fighter also claimed that he had agreed to take a lower-than-usual purse price because Wargods had agreed to use four of his teammates on the card as well. However, the promotion dropped the other Hawaiian fighters one by one as the fight date approached, said Correira.

“We were never trying to get four other guys on the card,” said the promotion rep. “We were trying to get, maybe, two guys from Hawaii, from B.J. Penn’s camp, to fly down. We were going to try to bring guys from the camp.”

The rep also said per diems -- money traditionally given to fighters and their cornermen to cover the cost of food on-site –- are not offered automatically in Wargods contracts and are something the managers have to ask and negotiate for.

Neri Moevao, a scout who helped broker Correira’s deal with Wargods, said he requested a per diem for Correira and his cornerman after the fighter had signed his contract, but the request fell through the cracks once the fighter’s medicals became the priority. Correira estimated he spent about $200 out of pocket to feed himself and his cornerman over the three days. Moevao said he did not take any fee from the fighter once the situation soured.

The Wargods representative said that “pretty much all” of the fighters other than Correira completed their medical paperwork on time. However, CSAC Assistant Executive Director Bill Douglas told Sherdog.com that a proposed card of 13 fights had been whittled down to eight bouts, half of which hadn’t been medically cleared by the regulatory body the night before the show. Wargods ended up hosting eight bouts.

The drama continued into Saturday, said Correira.

Cabbage said he and his cornerman were picked up by Rivas around 9:15 a.m. for a flight that left at 9:50 a.m., and had to insist the promoter follow them inside the airport because they knew they’d miss their flight.

The Wargods rep said Correira and his companion missed the flight because the fighter had wasted time trying to negotiate for payment that morning. Correira said Rivas left and promised to return, but that the fighter and his cornerman were stranded at the Fresno Yosemite Airport for nearly seven hours before another Wargods rep picked them up. Corriera said he made numerous calls to the promoters during that time and that conversations got tense on both ends. Correira said he had to resort to blocking his phone number to get Wargods promoters to answer his follow-up calls.

Correira and his cornerman were eventually retrieved from the airport, given $500 provided by one of the event’s sponsors, and put up in a hotel for an additional night. The pair was flown back to Hawaii promptly on Sunday morning.

“We tried to do everything we could to take care of him,” said the rep. “We wanted his ‘show money.’ A lot of fighters think it’s ‘show money’ when it’s actually ‘fight money.’”

The rep said the promotion was wary to work with Correira again, but they would welcome him back on May 30.

“He owes us this [fight],” said the rep. “We’ll fight him. We’ll even forgive his medicals. We want to be fair to fighters. We don’t want them to feel we’re taking advantage of them.”

Correira said he would honor the one fight for the same purse as long as Wargods “got their s--- together.” Correira said he would also have to be paid a remaining $1,500 he is owed (Correira said the promoter eventually agreed to pay half of his purse), a per diem during his stay and be given reasonable notice for his ingoing and outgoing fights.

“I told them, ‘If you guys do that, I’ll fight for you guys for the same price, no questions asked,’” said Correira. “I told them they need to talk to the fighters and find out what they’re doing wrong. Talk to them.”

Update: This article was updated at 7:08 p.m. EST to make a correction. Correira's proposed opponent at Wargods was Buddy Roberts, not Buddy Clinton.
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