Putting a price on fame
Would a merchandising agreement help or hurt UFC? Depends on who you are and where you plan to be plying your trade in a few years.
"Say a guy becomes an actor. Imagine if he decided to not fight anymore," said the manager. "Now the UFC owns the rights to him and his autobiography. The UFC keeps sending out e-mails, warm fuzzies, saying 'Wow, so-and-so just signed this big deal with us. If you don't get on this boat, you'll miss it.' [UFC President] Dana White is the master of this."However, New York-based attorney Judd Burstein, a hardened boxing litigator who has been involved in some of that sport's biggest cases, disagreed that the UFC deal being circulated to fighters is unfair. Burstein, who has successfully sued promoter Don King on multiple occasions, said that the deal is merely a product of a free-market system, and the UFC's similarity to other brand-powerful sports leagues gives the organization the right to leverage that as the NHL, NFL and NBA do. "You have to look at the UFC as a unified business," said Burstein, who has represented Oscar De La Hoya and Lennox Lewis, among others. "All of the fighters are employees of the UFC. It's not unusual in the intellectual property area that, an employer gives you a career, and without them, you wouldn't be able to sell shoes. You're [also] dealing with something extraordinarily successful over a short time. As there is [promotional] competition, superstars could develop their own deals. I don't think it's too far over the edge. This is not boxing promotion." To wit, the forces of the free market will work themselves out, he added. "If there's significantly enough fighters demanding more, the UFC will cough up the money," Burstein said. "If they organized, they could shut the thing down with a strike. It's America. If they give you a draconian contract, sign it if it's the only deal." Jason Probst is a contributor to Sherdog.com.