They say crime doesn't pay, but fighting really doesn't pay much. So when the payouts are less than the agreed upon amount, the sport has to take notice.
Cage Contender Facing Barrage Of Payment Issue Claims
by Jay Furness
Cage Contender have certainly done a lot to raise the profile of the sport mixed martial arts in Ireland, and their events have showcased many of the best Irish fighters, as well as top UK and international talent. With TV deals, big arena events and heavy marketing pushes, there's no doubt they've helped to produce a lot of stars, and assisted in MMA's move into the consciousness of the masses there.
However, recent talk surrounding the promotion has been for all of the wrong reasons, and the catalyst came last week when lightweight fighter Chris Stringer took to the internet to talk about payment issues stemming from Cage Contender 16 on February 23rd.
Stringer's accusations aimed at Cage Contender included late, short, and even non-payments to fighters after a series of false assertions that it had been done, and non-payment to officials.
The accusations caused more people to come out of the woodwork, and thus things snowballed, with those previously not speaking out now doing so. These included fighters, referees and even fans.
Judge David Swann, of MMA Connect, said he'd lost out on money following non-payment, after footing costs out of his own pocket to be an official at the event. "I have lost out on wages, a flight & two taxis," said Swann.
John Redmond put out his own video on Youtube, stating that six weeks after the fight he had still not been paid for the show despite being told 'week after week it had been paid', after initially getting a bounced cheque. Just yesterday, Redmond's team confirmed that payment had finally been made following them publicly voicing their concerns.
A common theme included late payment after repeated assertions it had been made, and then receiving amounts totalling less than they were promised.
After initially bringing the topic to light, Stringer stated he had since been approached by others in a similar situation:
"I have been contacted by 6 separate fighters sayin they have still not been paid. 2 of the fighters where from previous shows. And another did eventually get paid but was €65 euro short. A lot of fighters & staff said that they had been left short, skimming a lil off everyone all adds up."
Long-time Cage Contender commentator Barry Oglesby went on record with SevereMMA to state he would no longer be involved with the promotion.
"As a coach and former fighter, many of these people are my colleagues and friends, and I cannot in good conscience continue to support a brand that has treated them so poorly.
"I don’t know the ins and outs of the situation. John claims it is mismanagement that has led to this situation, his detractors claim it is unscrupulousness. Either way, the result is the same."
A Cage Contender shareholder, Tom Murphy released a comment, saying it was with the express permission of owner John Ferguson.
"Currently there are a number of payments due to various people which are outstanding. This is not an acceptable situation and not one that has ever happened before to CC. I'm very sorry to those who have been left waiting, it isnt your fault and you shouldnt be in this situation. Please accept my apologies and my assurance that you will be paid in full and as soon as possible.
"What has happened is what can happen to many companies, big and small. Its not a lack of finance, its a hiccup in cash flow. We are owed several tens of thousands ourselves and are waiting for that cash to be paid to us. Thats not your fault or indeed your problem. It is, however the situation we are in. Let me add that we have a new financial manager starting on Monday because this situation should not have been allowed to come to be."
Former Cage Contender headliner Mark Connor refuted these claims, and referred to the problems he had two years ago with regards to non-payment - an issue he claims is still unresolved.
Ferguson himself commented, stating:
"Firstly I want to begin by apologising to all those who are waiting for any monies from Ferguson Sports Group, we have messed up in a monumental way and as the person who runs the company I take full responsibility for the situation. It should never have happened and was caused by bad business management by me."
Irish MMA outlet Fight Hounds released a statement from a 'collective', that state the issues have forced many clubs and officials to back out of future work with Cage Contender.
"The lack of respect shown towards the fighters and staff, the beating heart of Irish MMA who keep it together, is simply unacceptable and cannot be tolerated."
As it stands, it appears there is now urgency on the behalf of Cage Contender to make payments to those owed money from Cage Contender 16 following the online stir this has caused. Headliner Paul Daley confirmed he had been paid in full and would have been the highest earner on the event by some margin.
The company have stated that their cashflow issues will be resolved, and it is a problem like any other business is likely to encounter. They're still promoting their next show, due to take place in May, and have noted that they hope to continue on with that event as scheduled.
More fighters, officials and companies are coming out in the public domain with their claims of non-payment from Cage Contender, however, so it's unclear as to the status of Cage Contender 17 right now.
Your MMA spoke to Cage Contender yesterday, and were told that their would be no more official comment as focus was on sorting out the problems and making sure issues were resolved.
Cage Contender's assertion is that it is due to poor management - a mistake they're trying to rectify. Others likely feel that there is more to it, but we hope to have more on the issue on the issue in the coming days.