Rousey fight management contract ruled invalid

Friday, April 04, 2014

For some time, UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has held that her contract with the management group Fight Tribe is not valid. Representatives of both sides met before California State Athletic Commission director Andy Foster on Friday.

Under California Business and Professions Code §18640, the CSAC has the “sole direction, management, control of and jurisdiction” of fighter management contract disputes in MMA and boxing in California.

Foster, assisted by two California deputy attorney generals, received briefs from both sides, and heard witnesses.

Today he handed down his decision.

Foster ruled that Rousey is free of the mixed martial arts portion of her contract. However, he did not rule on the commercial aspect of the contract, which he instead deferred to the Superior Court of California.

According to Sherdogthe contract was dated May 15, 2012, and signed January 29, 2013. It granted her manager 10 percent of Rousey’s income generated from fighting, modeling, acting and other commercial activities.

“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. 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.”

“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/ 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.”

“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. 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.”

Rousey’s lawyer, Steven Bash of Bash and Polyachenko, P.C., previously told Sherdog that he believed the parts of the contract relating to income generated from modeling, acting and other commercial activities would be found by the courts to be invalid.

In a message to Sherdog, another of Rousey's attorneys declined to specify the nature of the dispute.

“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,” he said. “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.”

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