Update: UFC Talking with Fitch’s Management

By Greg Savage Nov 20, 2008
Jon Fitch was released from the UFC on Wednesday, but a discussion has reopened with the promotion.

Bob Cook and Zinkin Entertainment, who manage Fitch and other fighters from the American Kickboxing Academy, told Sherdog.com on Thursday afternoon that talk has resumed with the UFC, but they would not comment on the exact nature of the discussion.

MMAMania.com broke the story of Fitch’s release, and Wednesday night the fighter told Hardcore Sports Radio’s “Sports Rage” that he was cut from the promotion after he’d refused to sign an agreement that would have relinquished his likeness rights for a UFC video game.

Fitch said he submitted a signed bout agreement Tuesday to fight Akihiro Gono at UFC 94 on Jan. 31, but the UFC terminated it, along with his promotional contract.

“I had two fights left on my contract, but they always put a clause in the contract that if you lose a fight, they’re able to release you at any time after a loss,” Fitch told “Sports Rage” host Gabriel Morency. “That’s pretty standard with any organization, but it’s pretty incredible that they’d go to those lengths for something like this, over a video game.”

Fitch, a Purdue University wrestling standout, said his refusal to sign the agreement for a UFC video game -- set for release by THQ in 2009 -- wasn’t based on compensation.

“The video game agreement that they have that they wanted us to sign was basically we don‘t get anything for it,” he told Morency. “We get free publicity and promotion from the game, which is great, no problem. The problem is it’s a lifetime exclusive contract. That means we would never ever be able to work with any video game companies other than the one the UFC provides.”

Fitch told Hardcore Sports Radio he was not adverse to the contract necessarily, but in the way it was presented to his management.

“They basically kicked the door open, guns blazing, pointed it in our face and said, ‘Sign this or you’re going to pay,’” Fitch said.

Fitch said that, to his knowledge, UFC President Dana White had given his representatives the ultimatum to sign or be scrapped even though the fighter’s reps tried to negotiate a five or 10-year deal for the video game rights.

In an interview with Yahoo Sports on Wednesday, White said the UFC would no longer do business with the American Kickboxing Academy, Fitch’s San Jose-based fight team. The UFC president has stated in various reports that Fitch was not released for not signing the agreement but instead because the UFC has struggled to work with his camp.

“We’re looking for guys who want to work with us and not against us, and frankly I’m just so [expletive] sick of this [expletive] it’s not even funny,” White told Yahoo Sports. “Affliction is still out there trying to build its company. Let [Fitch] go work with them. Let him see what he thinks of those [expletives]. [Expletive] him. These guys aren’t partners with us. [Expletive] them. All of them, every last [expletive] one of them.”

Christian Wellisch, an AKA teammate of Fitch, was also released on Wednesday, said Fitch. Wellisch had also received an agreement for a pending bout that was later retracted.

“They cut him from the organization first, I think as kind of a scare for me and [Josh] Koscheck and Cain [Velasquez],” said Fitch. “I guess Cain Velasquez wouldn’t sign under his contract and they we’re saying that after his fight he was done and they weren’t going to re-up his contract. I think the same thing goes for Koscheck. I think they would drop him right now too, if he wasn’t fighting on the 10th, if he wasn’t headlining that show –- so they can’t drop him.”

Koscheck faces Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC “Fight for the Troops” on Dec. 10 at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C.

Fitch had won eight straight fights before dropping a gutsy decision to St. Pierre. His undefeated run tied Royce Gracie’s for the most consecutive wins in the UFC.

With his dismissal, Fitch said he will likely lose 75-80 percent of his sponsorship monies. Earlier this year, Fitch and other AKA fighters were asked by the UFC to sign a separate merchandising agreement in perpetuity. Many of the squad declined the offer.

“I never wanted anything more than to fight in the UFC and be a UFC champ,” said Fitch. “I put in a lot of blood and guts and sweat and tears into this and this is my reward I guess.”

Jeff Sherwood and Loretta Hunt contributed to this story.
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