Update: Rousey Released from Fighter-Manager Deal; CSAC Defers to Court on Commercial Aspect

By Mike Whitman Apr 4, 2014
Ronda Rousey is free from the MMA portion of her contract with Fight Tribe Management. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

The California State Athletic Commission today handed down a ruling to conclude its arbitration of a contract dispute between UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and Fight Tribe Management.

According to the CSAC decision obtained by Sherdog.com, the regulatory body ruled that Rousey is free of the mixed martial arts portion of her contract. However, designated arbitrator and CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster did not rule on the commercial aspect of the contract, which he instead deferred to the Superior Court of California.

“The agreement is hereby found to be invalid and unenforceable as it relates to Rousey’s professional fighting services and Harvey’s professional fighting management services, only; the Commission makes no findings as to the other parts of the agreement that are not directly relating to MMA fighting and defers these matters to the California Superior Court,” the CSAC decision read. “Rousey and Harvey are released from their fighter-manager agreement dated May 15, 2012, and the California State Athletic Commission orders any and all purses, which may have been partially or wholly withheld to be released to Rousey.”

Fight Tribe Management initially filed a petition for arbitration in Los Angeles Superior Court on March 7. However, as the dispute was one between a professional fighter and her management, the matter was arbitrated on March 28 by the CSAC.

According to the CSAC decision, Rousey and Harvey entered into a three-year agreement dated May 15, 2012, and signed January 29, 2013, which granted Harvey 10 percent of Rousey’s income generated from professional fighting, modeling, acting and other commercial activities.

The CSAC decision stated that the agreement was not prepared on the required, pre-approved forms, nor did both parties appear before the commission at the same time in order to receive the commission’s approval, thereby invalidating the agreement as a fighter-manager contract in California.

However, the document also stated that Harvey contended the agreement was drafted as a talent contract and not a fighter management contract.

“Harvey asserts that since the contract was drafted as a talent contract and not a fighter-manager contract, he did not meet the definition of a manager as set forth in Business and Professions Code section 18628,” the decision read. “Specifically, the contract did not call for more than a 10-percent commission and related mostly to commercial activities and only incidentally to fighting activities. Further, Harvey asserts that following Rousey’s entering into a contract with the UFC, Harvey no longer procured, arranged or directed Rousey’s fights, as these duties were taken over by the UFC. Hence, Harvey no longer acted as Rousey’s manager after the UFC.”

Nevertheless, the CSAC ruled that Harvey did act as Rousey’s manager, even after Rousey signed with the UFC.

“From the beginning of their relationship, the arbitrator finds that Harvey by his own admissions and actions undertook by agreement to represent the interests of Rousey in advancing and promoting her MMA fighting career,” the decision read. “Further, Harvey was involved in Rousey’s training and development, which he paid for. He directed or controlled Rousey’s MMA activities in one way or another. This is true even after Rousey signed her UFC contract. Following the UFC contract, Harvey’s manager responsibilities for procuring and arranging fights were eliminated; however, he continued managing Rousey by being intimately involved in her MMA activities by promoting her fighting career and by acquiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in paid sponsorships for her, which were generated from Rousey’s fighting success. The arbitrator finds that Harvey was Rousey’s manager.”

Sherdog.com attempted to contact Harvey for comment on Thursday afternoon, but the Fight Tribe Management founder could not immediately be reached. However, Fight Tribe official Geneva Wasserman reached out to Sherdog.com on Thursday night and forwarded a statement from Harvey on Friday afternoon.

“When I first met Ronda Rousey four years ago, she was destitute and UFC President Dana White was quoted as saying a woman would never fight in the UFC. I set out to make Ronda a star and prove Dana wrong. The results speak for themselves. Ronda is now a highly sought-after model, spokesperson and actress, not to mention the first and still reigning female UFC champion. She deserves all the credit in the world for her accomplishments, but she never would have achieved such unprecedented success without the unwavering financial investment, career guidance and professional support Fight Tribe Management and I provided her.

“I am not a litigious person, but I never thought for a moment that once she made it to the top, Ronda would turn her back on us and refuse to honor her legal and moral obligations. After months of radio silence and without even giving me the courtesy of an explanation I was forced to go to court to compel Ronda to private arbitration per the terms of our agreement. Before that could be sorted out, Ronda’s legal team ran to the State Athletic Commission, demanded an expedited hearing and tried to get our entire agreement thrown out on a technicality. During our four-hour hearing last week, I finally heard Ronda’s side of the story. Frankly, it’s pathetic and I’m not surprised the Commission chose not to include any of that in their written decision. The Commission did properly reject Ronda’s attempt to invalidate the entirety of our agreement, and I am very pleased with that aspect of their decision. Our case against Ronda will now proceed. I am confident that when all the facts are presented to an impartial private arbitrator, Fight Tribe Management’s contributions to Ronda’s career will be fully recognized and fairly rewarded.”

Last month, Rousey’s lawyer, Steven Bash of Bash and Polyachenko, P.C., told Sherdog.com that he believed Rousey’s representation agreement would not hold up under California law. On Thursday, Bash and legal partner, Alexander Polyachenko, emailed Sherdog.com a statement addressing the CSAC ruling.

“Of course we are pleased with the decision. Ronda regrets that things went down this road, but she truly felt that she had no choice based on the events of the past year. While the decision by the commission to invalidate the contract was based on FTM/Harvey’s failure to comply with CSAC Rules, the original reasons that she sought to distance herself from Darin were discussed in some detail in the arbitration. We agree with the arbitrator’s decision to keep those details out of the opinion and to focus on the law.

“With most fighters, this would be the end of the story. However, because of Ronda’s unprecedented popularity outside the cage, certain provisions in the contract relating to non-fight earnings are of unusual importance. Going forward, we feel strongly that since Darin is no longer going to be her manager, the entire purported agreement should be deemed invalid, since the overall purpose of the contract has been frustrated. However, since such a ruling would be beyond the scope of the CSAC arbitration, we anticipate having to establish that in private arbitration and Superior Court.”

Rousey, 27, won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Olympics and then made her mixed martial arts debut in 2011, submitting each of her first seven foes with first-round armbars. “Rowdy” won Strikeforce’s bantamweight championship the following year and then became the first woman to sign with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The Californian has defended her UFC title three times since being christened the organization’s 135-pound queen, topping Liz Carmouche and Miesha Tate before stopping Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann this past February at UFC 170.

Outside the cage, Rousey’s star has also grown in recent years. The fighter has appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine and Maxim and more recently began acting in major motion pictures, earning roles in “The Fast and the Furious 7” and “The Expendables 3.”

This item was updated on April 4 at 7:07 p.m. ET to include a statement from Darin Harvey.


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