Choosing a manager/agent is one of the most important challenges confronting a promising fighter, even before he ever competes in a professional event. At every stage of their careers, fighters will be approached by many so-called "managers/agents" eager to tell them why they should sign a contract with the manager's company. Unlike many other professional sports, where actual credentials are required, becoming a manager in boxing or MMA requires only a small fee (usually $50.00 annually) and the absence of a felony record (sometimes even a criminal record is okay). So you have all types of people calling themselves "managers" or "agents" who are no more qualified to work in that capacity than to carry the spit bucket to the ring. It is important that fighters do research on the managers/agents that approach them, especially those who try to rush them into signing.
Below is a short list of "do's and don'ts" that a fighter should follow prior to signing with any manager/agent:
- DO check the manager/agent's qualifications.
- Do they have the necessary expertise in the fight game?
- Do they have the necessary education to negotiate your contracts properly?
- Do they have the necessary connections in the industry?
- DO limit the term of any contract you sign.
- Make sure that you have options to terminate the contract if the manager/agent is not performing.
- Make sure that the manager/agent's percentage is aligned with industry standard or below.
- DO your due diligence.
- Check the manager/agent's background to check out the reality of his "war-stories" in the fight-game.
- Check their references carefully Â– about other athletes that they claim to have worked with and why those relationships ended.
- Check out the reality of the specific, factual reasons they give you for hiring them.
- DON'T EVER sign a contract that gives the manager/agent "power of attorney".
- Power of Attorney gives the manager/agent the legal power to act for you -- such as the right to sign your name to contracts, receive and cash your checks, or hire and fire other representatives. You should always be the one making these decisions.
Depending on the stage of his career, a fighter may opt not to have management at all. If you are an established fighter, you can negotiate your own contracts and endorsement deals with the assistance of only a qualified attorney and accountant. A shining example of this would be NBA All-Star Ray Allen (a.k.a. Jesus Shuttlesworth), who in 1999 negotiated his Milwaukee Bucks contract through the late attorney Johnnie Cochran. Allen saved himself more than $2.8 million (the agent's traditional 4% commission) by paying his attorney an hourly fee in the thousands Â–- not millions -- to review and advise Allen on his contracts and endorsement deals and to pay his accountant for tax advice.
Choosing a manager/agent is one of the most important choices a fighter will ever make. Make sure that you have an attorney review any contract that a manager/agent is asking you to sign. History is littered with horror stories of fighters that have been misguided, left penniless, or lost out on major opportunities due to choosing an unqualified manager/agent. Don't be sucked in by promises that sound too good to be true. Most managers/agents will promise things that they cannot deliver just to get a fighter to sign a contract.
Being a fighter is one of the hardest professions in the world. Choose the right team to surround you, so that you can concentrate on being the best fighter you can.
Gregory Bloom, Esq. is a sports and entertainment attorney with ChaseLawyers in Miami, FL. He has represented numerous high level athletes in both boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, and has handled complex, high-profile contract negotiations, sponsorship and endorsement deals, and brand recognition opportunities for his clients.