“Champion’s Clause” Derails World Series of Fighting Title Bout

A scheduled bout for the vacant World Series of Fighting welterweight championship has apparently been derailed as a result of the promotion’s contractual champion’s clause.

MMAFighting’s Dave Doyle reports that after WSOF president Ray Sefo announced the planned bout between Jake Shields and Jon Fitch was off because “Jake Shields has informed us that he does not intend to honor the terms of his existing contract at this time and declined to sign a bout agreement to fight Jon Fitch” Shields revealed that the real sticking point is the so-called ‘champion’s clause’ which automatically extends the contract should he win the title on his last bout.

Doyle reports as follows

For his part, Shields says he was looking for an increase in the show money on his current deal, and feels they weren’t far off on contractual terms. But according to Shields, WSOF basically told him to take the title shot or leave it, and would not offer him the opportunity to take another fight against a different opponent and finish out his contract.

“They basically said they were just going to sit on my contract,” Shields said. “It was take the title fight, or no fight at all. I signed the contract I signed of my own free will, I’m not complaining about that, but it’s either take the title fight and get stuck with my old deal if I win, or no other fight. This is happening right when I was about to start my camp.”

The clause in question has not been publicly disclosed but presumably it is modeled after the Zuffa clause which has previously been publicly revealed through litigation which reads as follows

If, at the expiration of the Term, Fighter is then a champion (in the promotion), the Term shall automatically be extended for the period commencing on the Termination Date and ending on the later of (i) one (1) year from the Termination Date; or (ii) the date on which Fighter has participated in three (3) bouts promoted by (promoter), regardlesss of weight class or title, following the Termination Date

It is not difficult to see why such a clause can prove problematic as if it gets triggered it essentially limits bargaining rights for a fighter at a time when their market value is presumably at its highest. As labor law professor Zev Eigen previously told Bleacher Report such a clause, which can arguably be triggered in perpetuity, may not stand up in court with Eigen noting “I think it’s potentially a violation of the 13th Amendment, the prohibition against slavery or involuntary servitude. You can’t force someone to work for you. I don’t know how, under contract law, that would be enforceable. But I don’t think it’s been challenged.”

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