"I have had fighters who were commanding six figures a fight and they think that that's going to last forever because as they are winning, everyone is telling them that they are the best and they are gonna be the next big thing, and that's the horror of the fight game, whether boxing or MMA, is that it only takes one loss and then you're back to the bottom of the deck, and then you gotta work your way back up," stated attorney Greg Bloom, who talked in-depth about some of the regular issues he addresses in his "Legal Beat" column. Check it out!
PC: How is everything going?
GB: Pretty good.
PC: I thought the episode of ESPN 30/30 "Broke" was very interesting because it pointed to a lot of the issues that you address in your "Legal Beat" column. You said it was eye-opening to you. What was it about the film that was an eye-opener to you?
GB: The eye-opening part to me was how so many people, in the NFL in particular, didn't really have the people around them giving them the knowledge as to how to handle their money. The NFL is closest to the fight game because those contracts aren't secured, so to me, that was the most eye-opening is that so many of these guys didn't have anyone educating them.
PC: Yeah, I was definitely surprised when they mentioned that NFL players were the biggest spenders being that they don't have guaranteed contracts outside of their signing bonus. It's a lot like the fight game, where you are on a year-to-year basis, or in the fight game, a fight-to-fight basis.
GB: Yeah. And I also, think it was eye-opening for the way they are perceived. It really does correlate to the fight game. People see someone who fights in the UFC and they figure, "Oh, he must be getting paid," but the fact of the matter is until you are in the main event or on the PPV's where you are getting the big bonus checks and the big sponsor money, it's day to day.
PC: I have spoken to a few UFC fighters and they said the biggest misperception is that because they are on TV, that means they are rich, and you know like I know for some of those guys, that's simply not true; they are making in the low 4 figures.
GB: Oh yeah! I had some fighters recently in the UFC who were on Fuel TV and sponsorship money has totally dried up. Jon Fitch mentioned it the other day and he's a top level guy. You have all of these avenues have dried up and it shows that the market, I don't want to say is oversaturated with the UFC, but it's so much more prominent now that they just don't have the budget to sponsor fighters.
PC: Watching the ESPN special pointed to something you have touched on before your "Legal Beat" columns as well and that is not only is it important to have a good manager and agent and attorney and things like that, but also the people these athletes keep around. Everyone wants to hang around athletes, but everyone doesn't have that athlete's best interest.
GB: I think it's super important. You have to really tighten your circle because just like any other sport or whatever, everyone loves you when you're on top. And the second in the fight game, the second you get knocked out, everyone is gonna turn their back because you no longer have the spotlight on you. I know this is gonna sound very biased, but even when I was managing guys, the reason I started managing guys, besides my love for the sport, is I had something to bring to the table. I thought I can be a benefit to the fighters I represented because I was able to protect them. Now you have a lot of managers that want to be in the game and because they are not skilled enough to be fighters, they call themselves managers. And no disrespect to a lot of the guys out there, but that's my true feelings. There are a lot of great managers out there, but there are also a lot of people out there calling themselves managers.
PC: Something else you covered before is the fact that just because a guy can look over a contract, that doesn't mean they can handle your money or close other deals. You feel these guys must have a manager, a lawyer etc.
GB: It's a red flag, and I tell a lot of my clients this no matter what field they are in because my business is purely sports entertainment. Having an attorney is like having car insurance. It's a necessary unit. If you don't want to spend the money up front and have them review the contract, but the second something happens, because you had an attorney, they end up saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars, you are happy that you spent the $10,000 or $5,000 on attorney's fees up front because they protect you. And I'm not saying that managers don't protect you, but that's like me saying, "I'm gonna fix your plumbing." I'm not a plumber. I can say I know how to do a couple of things and snake your drain or something, but I'm not a plumber.
PC: You don't have to name any names, but I'm sure being in the field you are in for as long as you have, you have seen your share of athletes who made great money and are now nickel and diming their way through life.
GB: Oh yeah! I have had fighters who were commanding six figures a fight and they think that that's going to last forever because as they are winning, everyone is telling them that they are the best and they are gonna be the next big thing, and that's the horror of the fight game, whether boxing or MMA, is that it only takes one loss and then you're back to the bottom of the deck, and then you gotta work your way back up. And God forbid you catch two losses. You are definitely not making the same money. So you go out and you spend the money as if it's never gonna end, and then you go on to your next fight and you don't have a good performance and then you are getting a third of your purse and a third of your sponsorship in the following fight and you can't support your lifestyle.
PC: Much like these NFL guys, a lot of fighters retire so young. I mean, if you fight for 10 years and you are 33, you are on the downside of your career to where most careers that are non-sports, you are in your primes at 35, so it's important to plan for after whatever sports career you may have going.
GB: One of the main things I would coach all of my guys on is, listen, I know you're only making $2,000 bucks or 2 and 2 in your fights, but try to put 10% away. I know it's hard when you have bills and kids and all of these things, but put it away and forget about it for a rainy day. I would always tell guys this; your career is a small window in your life. That's just the nature of being an athlete; you can't do it forever. And afterwards, you have to prepare yourself. Some guys were smart and they opened gyms or got behind a microphone or picked up another skill that was something that they enjoyed and they were able to survive, but they have a horrible amount of fighters who, when it goes away, they are broke and they have nothing to do. They have no skillset and they start from zero at 35 or 40 years old and it's tragic.
PC: Other than sitting these guys in a boring class where it's been documented that most of them fall asleep and things like that, what can be done in all sports, but fighting in particular, to help these young men manager their money?
GB: I think the UFC is sort of on the right track in a lot of ways. They hold the fight summit and, like you said, you see guys sleeping and stuff, but it's like the insurance thing. The same way they are doing the thing where they are taking the fighters health insurance; mandate some money into a retirement fund. Start a retirement fund for the guys and it doesn't matter if you fought in the UFC for 2 years or 10 years, you will have something. Fighters are creatures of habit, so if they are used to putting that money away, hopefully when they leave the UFC or their fight career is over, or even if they get cut from the UFC, they will remember every paycheck after every to put 10% or 15% into this purse. Let them keep doing that and maybe, with the UFC being so heavy-handed and respected by the fighters, maybe that's something they can start doing.
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrFighthype ]