Legal issues in Bisping management lawsuit

Friday, May 19, 2017

Earlier this week the Daily Mail reported that UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping is in the midst of trial being sued by his former manager Anthony McGann.

The Daily Mail reports that “McGann…is suing him for £270,000 in unpaid fees and expenses dating back ten years.”.   The lawsuit is based on a disputed contract which purportedly has “a clause for the McGann and Wolfslair to receive a 20 percent commission” of Bisping’s earnings.

Bisping says he has met his contractual obligations.  He further suggests the contract presented in court had been altered and that his signature “appears on a contract that I didn’t sign” contending the document produced in court was several pages longer than the one he signed in 2005.

The trial will likely turn on the credibility of the parties and the authenticity of the document produced.  If, however, it is proven that a valid contract exists giving McGann a 20% interest in Bisping’s fight purses, a further question arises as to whether this is enforceable.

The contractual period of time stems from 2005-2012.  During these years Bisping fought many bouts around the globe including several in North America.  Unlike many of his overseas bouts the North American bouts are subject to Government run Athletic Commission regulation.  Among the regulations are requirements which must be met for managers to be entitled to slice of a fighter’s purse.

For example, in 2012 Bisping fought in Toronto.  This bout was governed by Ontario’s Athletic Control Act which requires that “No person shall manage a participant in a professional contest or exhibition except under the authority of a licence or permit issued by the Commissioner.”

Bisping had 3 bouts in Nevada where the Nevada Athletic Commission requires management contracts to be “filed with the Commission at least 72 hours before a scheduled contest or exhibition“.

He also fought in California during this timeframe where s. 221 of California’s regulations stipulate “The original contract entered into between managers and boxers…shall be placed on file with the commission at the time it is approved pursuant to Rule 222. Except as provided below, a contract becomes null and void if at any time during its term the manager or promoter, after notice from the commission, is not licensed by the commission. .”  As Ronda Rousey’s manager learned, this provision is binding and failing to comply with it disentitles the manager to their cut of the fighter’s purse.

Even if the contract presented in Court is proven to be genuine and if Bisping did not meet all of his financial obligations under it, he may have a defense when it comes to paying McGann a percentage of his earnings from North American bouts unless McGann was a licenced manager in all these jurisdictions and had his contract comply with the various commission requirements.

It is unclear from the Daily Mail’s report if Bisping is advancing such arguments but, if not, his legal team should certainly consider doing so.

Author Erik Magraken is a British Columbia litigation lawyer, combat sports law consultant, founder of the Combat Law Sports Blog, and profoundly appreciated UGer.