–Kenny Rice

Location. Location. Location. Ask any successful realtor and that is what they will tell you when it comes to selling property. Where is it is as important what it is in the majority of cases.

Contract. Contract. Contract. It is the key in business dealings. If it’s on paper as any successful attorney will tell you it is what you have agreed to and what your boss has as well.

So simple, yet so complicated.

We all sign some type of contract in our lives; as basic as having home repairs, cars fixed or authorizing a doctor to perform even the most general of procedures. Some are more involved requiring a lawyer. All have a basic premise, here’s what they are offering here’s what you will offer. And even the most rudimentary deal can have consequences if everyone isn’t on the same page.

“The failure to understand the scope of a contract and to therefore not understand the obligations undertaken (and not undertaken) by both sides to the contract can sometimes result in a knockout of the uninformed contracting party,” says prominent attorney Tom Walsh, a Principal in the law firm of Fish & Richardson P.C. in Dallas.

In other words, pay attention to what you are signing and if you aren’t sure seek advice from someone who knows. You might be out a few bucks but in the long run it can keep you from either losing a lot more money or being culpable for something you had no idea was your responsibility.

Several fighters have also learned the hard way that a verbal agreement isn’t usually worth the paper it’s written on.

In the six plus year of Inside MMA, there are have several instances of this. A fighter thinks he has a deal but really doesn’t. Maybe an novice agent has constructed a contract that has been misconstrued by a client or promoter or there are so many loopholes the late Andre the Giant could’ve sauntered through easily.

“It has gotten better than say ten years ago even five,” says a promoter requesting anonymity. “The agents are more real, they have actually done deals before in either sports or business. There was a time  when too many of these guys claiming to be agents were really fans not real professionals. Some are still paying the price.  That’s probably why some guys still fight past their prime, they never made as much money as fans think they did. Of course the UFC has so much control of the market even with a great agent there is a limited amount of negotiating with smaller shows.”

The highest profile contract dispute occurred in 2007 when the highest profile fighter, Randy Couture bolted from the UFC seeking essentially free agency only to find a year later there is no such offering of any considerable note out there in MMA land. The UFC has the most money therefore the most clout and with a very few exceptions the power to negotiate is restricted. In my ebook “Not Hit Yet: MMA in 2011,” I compare Couture’s case to that of baseball pioneer Curt Flood who fought against the once iron clad reserve clause owners held over players. And my theory is that while he lost, Couture did bring the attention to needs for fighters and subsequently the UFC began year long insurance coverage and a few other concessions to their athletes.

Enter now the latest contractual dispute, Eddie Alvarez versus Bellator, the organization that has assumed the mantle of the second strongest outfit in MMA. Recently a New Jersey court ruled Alvarez at the moment is still the property of Bellator–and that’s what all athletes are with contracts, the property of the team or group they have a deal with. But this is a watershed for the sport, for what other fighters will look for in future signings, or they should.

Alvarez contends that Bellator’s clause of matching a rival offer is in a deep gray area because the deal he signed with the UFC was countered to the number by Bellator. If it were that simple neither party would have been in a courtroom. The whole shebang hinges on pay-per-view money that the UFC could bring to Alvarez’ table in addition to monetary rewards per fight, that apparently wasn’t part of the Bellator deal which relies on a television contract as most organizations due except the PPV driven UFC. They are in that position because they have been the only MMA game that attracts enough at home buys to make it viable, at least for now.

Having seen neither contract, and only hearing what each side argues, there is no possible way to predict or opine on who has the upper hand. The judge’s ruling wasn’t much clearer in deciding for Bellator. Alvarez is appealing and probably hoping that while the judge ruled he “has not shown a reasonable probability,” that leads most to believe there is still a good chance to get more reasonable with more probability in round two.

This is a unique case, trying to determine if matching a contract offer goes beyond the side benefits one company has over the other, that there is actually more than what a fighter makes per fight on paper.  Matching offers could never be the same again for any fighter or any group depending on this outcome.

Simple, yet so complicated and so worth every fighter out there keeping up with the progress of this case. The verdict is still out and it is one that will resonate for years in MMA.

Got something you’re burning on? Tell us on facebook or twitteror tell the man himself on Kenny’s twitter or facebook page

Watch Kenny Rice along with Bas Rutten LIVE every Friday night on Inside MMA, and check out Kenny’s new book “Not Hit Yet” an insider look at the MMA world in 2012, available at Amazon now

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