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4/12/09 3:38 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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Managers at Zuffa events: VP of Operations goes on record

April 12, 2009

At the beginning of this month, with an article written by Sherdog.com Editor Loretta Hunt, a discussion began in the MMA world about fighter management presence at Zuffa (the parent company of the UFC and WEC) fight events and whether or not there has been a policy shift in their being credentialed or if particular management teams have recently begun to be selectively excluded from events and kept away from their fighters on fight night. Since, beneath all the would be controversy, hypothesizing and rancor, the issues at hand are operational procedure ones, InsideFighting decided to go to the point person for such matters at Zuffa, Donna Marcolini. Ms. Marcolini is the Vice President of Operations for Zuffa ans has been with the company since 2001.


In this question and answer session between Ms. Marcolini and InsideFighting Editor Elias Cepeda, the first of a series of stories we will be running this week on this matter with different perspectives, we attempted to only ask Ms. Marcolini questions that she could answer herself with first hand knowledge. We tried to stay away from asking her questions that would require her to guess what others might think and how others would feel or react. What we hope to get at the heart of on behalf of our readers is, some of the current Zuffa event policy and procedures with regards to credentials and how, exactly, they may have or may not have changed over the years. Read the Story

4/12/09 4:00 PM
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Hood_Jitsu
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great article thanks
4/12/09 4:05 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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 Glad you liked it, thanks for commenting HJ.

Interesting idea Anarkis
4/12/09 4:15 PM
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Ron Jamdeen
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A) This seems to contradict two questions you asked in which you led the answers with assumptions:

"we attempted to only ask Ms. Marcolini questions that she could answer herself with first hand knowledge. We tried to stay away from asking her questions that would require her to guess what others might think and how others would feel or react. "

IF: I could br wrong, but it seems to me very likely that what occurred is that some of these managers who have complained off the record spent money to fly out to an event one of their fighters was on, thinking, ‘Donna is going to be nice to me again and give me a backstage credential”…

IF: Well, that’s what I’m getting at. Perhaps a few that recently couldn’t get in like they expected to got upset and so they went complaining about it.

B) I Googled your name and something that jumped out is that you write for the UFC. Not sure if that sways your article's stance at all.

Interesting interview though.
Are you planning on interviewing Loretta and the Pav too to get their sides?
4/12/09 4:22 PM
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Newbiebad
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Well... Dana wasn't exactly forcing Rampage to sign the papers. Official bout agreements ARE signed later after managers etc... have looked at it. I don't think an informal verbal proposition is the same as forcing Rampage to fight under "duress". If I remember correctly from that video Dana kept saying, "I don't want to force you to fight". Also, I'm sure the fighter can contract the company later even if he did give a verbal ok to Dana.

Dana was probably a little surprised Rampage didn't want the title shot right away. Rampage had hurt his jaw, was tired from training, and is one of the few fighters who KNOWS his next fight is for the title. Almost every other in the fighter in the UFC would jump at the chance for a title shot.
4/12/09 4:28 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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Edited: 04/12/09 4:29 PM
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Ron, I think you very well could have a point with your Point A. Although, I was trying to get at a question of fact - that is, did the type of scenario I described happen with Donna? That is, did people come up to her mad, telling her they assumed they would get credentials. But essentially, you are right that that question veers into having her guess what others feel. It is not wholly consistent with the stated goal. I tried, but I suppose veered off here.

I have written some freelance articles for UFC.com. We all have our things, that is, items that could be construed as evidence that we could not be totally objective. I have mine. Others have theirs.  I'm sure we all just try to let our bodies of work speak for themselves and let the readers decide for themselves how credible we are.

With regards to this managers "issue", there actually isn't much of a controversy in my opinion. As such, I don't look at this story as a counter to what has been written already.

There are personal problems, apparently, between different people - like Dana White and others - but from speaking with the UFC personal I have, and the management I have, I don't believe this is a story in the way the first Sherdog article may have made it seem like it was. But we plan to speak with more fighters, managers, etc. There just seemed to be a lot of confusion and auxillury ugliness but little clarity on actual procedure so I wanted to dig there with on the record sources for fight fans

I have interviewed Ken Pavia and plan on contacting Loretta Hunt at some point soon.

There will be more stories to come. 
4/12/09 4:28 PM
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frontrowbrian
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Edited: 04/12/09 4:39 PM
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 got to love Zuffa... one day you're a Secretary and then you're the VP of Operations.

nothing against Secretaries but one usually doesn't go from Secretary directly to VP status 
4/12/09 4:32 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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 for what its worth brian, those two positions have a whole lot in common at Zuffa. Actually makes good sense to me. And if it isn't on its face logical, I think the half decade or more since then of work would bear out that being a pretty good decision
4/12/09 4:44 PM
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Newbiebad
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^^ I agree. I don't find it too surprising that the VP of operations used to be an administrative assistant. Also, she started off in 2001, which would make her one of the longest serving employees in the company. Secretaries spend a lot of time preparing documents, arranging conferences/meetings and need an eye for detail. Call me crazy, but that sounds like the right skill set to run the Operations department.
4/12/09 4:50 PM
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frontrowbrian
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Newbiebad - ^^ I agree. I don't find it too surprising that the VP of operations used to be an administrative assistant. Also, she started off in 2001, which would make her one of the longest serving employees in the company. Secretaries spend a lot of time preparing documents, arranging conferences/meetings and need an eye for detail. Call me crazy, but that sounds like the right skill set to run the Operations department.
i see your point but Secretary and VP sound very far apart. maybe I'm overrating the term VP. Then again, Dana was a wannabe Billy Blanks and went on to become one of the most famous fight promoters ever.
 
4/12/09 4:55 PM
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goku
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Fucking pathetic...delete my posts because I point out a typo in the article?
4/12/09 5:11 PM
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Kr0ndogg
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 great interview elias.

funny how this is what CindyO has been saying all along.

*waits for Whistleblower's lame attempt to try and spin this one*
4/12/09 5:15 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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goku - Fucking pathetic...delete my posts because I point out a typo in the article?
lol. You wanted your comments to remain even after they were outdated? Ok, I guess it would be good for your ego. Thanks for pointing out the typo. Its been corrected. 

Thanks also Kr0ndogg for reading. Glad you've gotten something out of the piece
 
4/12/09 5:15 PM
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JimmersonzGlove
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 This is getting as ridiculous as "grease gate."
4/12/09 5:21 PM
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Kr0ndogg
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Edited: 04/12/09 5:52 PM
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sleazy managers abusing the system ruined it for everyone else...*cough *cough the VAG.

IF:
What kind of criteria did you use in the past to decide whether or not someone would get an extra credential?

DM: I consider what the fighters are asking me. The fighters come first so I consider what the fighter is asking me. There have been cases where the manager or agent forgot to get the banner to the fighter and that’s a big deal so he or she has got to get backstage to give him the banner or give him his fight shorts. Things like that where he or she is allowed to go see that particular fighter. That’s where myself and the operations team control it.

How this all started, with the whole lanyards versus wristbands was throughout all of last year, myself and who my partner is in the operations team, Burt Watson, he was backstage and we were observing over time the abuse of lanyards when it came to the management team and the camps of the fighters. So we started brainstorming on how we could make this better. It was so congested backstage. We were finding and catching managers taking their credentials – they were licensed credentialed cornermen – and going out into the arena, putting that lanyard around somebody else’s neck, going and sitting down in that person’s seat and then that person, a brand new face, is backstage.

Over time, things like this were happening. One, its a violation. And two, it was just more people [backstage]. And we are in the middle of an event. We are on pre-show time. Once we are backstage, the fighters line up to go to the Octagon and we are going, we are going strong. And we were noticing all this chaos happening and it did not need to happen this way. Burt Watson and myself came up with a new procedure; it would be no more lanyards, it would now be wristbands. We could control the wristbands because we put them on that licensed corner and they can’t take it off. And that’s how everything started in our eyes. We started that last September to see if it would work out. We met with all the venues. Its a great system for the venues, it helps with security with the fighters backstage. And then in January we were full force from then moving forward with how we do that.

 

IF: I’m going to mention a particular manager now, since he has actually went on record for the Sherdog.com article. Ken Pavia. Not to pick on him, but since he had the guts to go on record, I’ll ask you, was Ken Pavia ever caught by you violating the event rules by swapping out credentials?

DM: Yes. He was outright, red handedly caught. He has been caught by Burt Watson and he has been caught by me. It’s not just him, it’s everybody.

IF: I would ask you about more managers by name but he’s the only one that went on the record in that previous article. Is it fair to say that when you’ve caught someone breaking your rules you would be less likely to look favorably on them and do them those extra favors afterwards?

DM: Well, I wouldn’t with anybody. It’s not just Ken Pavia. I’m not lashing, by any means, out on him. We are here trying to run an event, we are busy as hell. We are one big team so we are tying to accommodate the fighters, whether its with their managers or agents and be nice with an extra little thing and then over time people start to abuse it. We’re seeing the fighters get upset backstage, we’re seeing these faces that don’t belong backstage – they are not at all, at all, training that fighter – and it was very frustrating. It is frustrating that we are going out of our way to do things that we don’t have to do, there is no law or policy, we’re doing it out of courtesy, and this stuff gets abused. So it was very, very frustrating.

 
4/12/09 5:40 PM
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TheClips
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Edited: 04/12/09 5:46 PM
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Thanks for posting, it was good to see their side of the story.
4/12/09 5:56 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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 thank you for reading and commenting TC
4/12/09 6:15 PM
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JoeHurley
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Anarkis2 - I think they just need to give the fighters one managers wrist band. I saw where Dana was trying to get Quinton to fight while he was under duress. I think the fighters deserve to be protected when things like this happen.

 So every Vp and CEO just started out at that level?  You ever heard of interns and mailroom people working their way up the ladder?
4/12/09 6:17 PM
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Pebbs
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Administrative Assistants and Secretaries are not just typists anymore... They are usually extremely important individuals who keep daily operations running for many companies... FYI
4/12/09 6:18 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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JoeHurley - 
Anarkis2 - I think they just need to give the fighters one managers wrist band. I saw where Dana was trying to get Quinton to fight while he was under duress. I think the fighters deserve to be protected when things like this happen.

 So every Vp and CEO just started out at that level?  You ever heard of interns and mailroom people working their way up the ladder?
I think you quoted the wrong quote? But I agree with you
 
4/12/09 6:19 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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Pebbs - Administrative Assistants and Secretaries are not just typists anymore... They are usually extremely important individuals who keep daily operations running for many companies... FYI
very true
 
4/12/09 6:21 PM
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JoeHurley
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Elias Cepeda - 
JoeHurley - 
Anarkis2 - I think they just need to give the fighters one managers wrist band. I saw where Dana was trying to get Quinton to fight while he was under duress. I think the fighters deserve to be protected when things like this happen.

 So every Vp and CEO just started out at that level?  You ever heard of interns and mailroom people working their way up the ladder?
I think you quoted the wrong quote? But I agree with you
 
Whoops.  My mistake, but you get the point.
 
4/12/09 6:22 PM
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Pebbs
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Elias Cepeda - 
Pebbs - Administrative Assistants and Secretaries are not just typists anymore... They are usually extremely important individuals who keep daily operations running for many companies... FYI
very true

 



I was also interested to hear what she had to say also. Thank you for posting it!
4/12/09 6:29 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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 hey, no problem Pebbs, thanks!
4/12/09 6:35 PM
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Elias Cepeda
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 Thanks for the kind words, DA

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