McGregor / UFC Rift and “Reasonable” Promotion

More details are coming to light about the recent turn of events between Conor McGregor and the UFC with the featherweight champion first announcing retirement, the UFC responding that he has been removed from UFC 200 for failing to cooperate with press obligations and that announced “retirement” has contractual implications.

Today McGregor announced he is not retired hoping to avoid any contractual repercussions and noting that he remains ready, willing and able to compete at UFC 200.  He acknowledged that the dispute indeed revolves around the amount of promotional work the UFC wants him to engage in while he would rather focus his time and effort on training for his rematch with Nate Diaz.

McGregor noted he is willing to attend a press conference in New York but little more with his statement concluding as follows:

I am still ready to go for UFC 200.
I will offer, like I already did, to fly to New York for the big press conference that was scheduled, and then I will go back into training. With no distractions.
If this is not enough or they feel I have not deserved to sit this promotion run out this one time, well then I don’t know what to say.
For the record also –
For USADA and for the UFC and my contract stipulations –

The UFC apparently wants more promotional appearances from McGregor with at least once press conference in Las Vegas.

From a legal perspective can the UFC force McGregor’s hand? Is McGregor within his rights to put his foot down?  It depends on the language of the latest contract between McGregor and Zuffa.  If that contract contains standard language that Zuffa insists on then the answer will depend on the interpretation of the word “reasonable“.

Standard UFC contracts require the following (key words emphasized in bold)

Fighter shall cooperate and assist in the advertising, publicity, and promotion of (i) the Bouts, (ii) any and all rebroadcast of the Bouts in any media whatsoever, (iii) other UFC bouts, (iv) other UFC events and broadcasts, and (v) the sale of UFC merchandise, including making appearances at a reasonable number of press conferences, interviews and other sponsorship and promotional activities (any of which may be telecast, broadcast, recorded or filmed) at times and places reasonably designated by ZUFFA, without additional compensation therefore.  For such promotional activities, ZUFFA will arrange and pay for Fighter’s reasonable travel, hotel and meal accommodations“.

This language is broad and places at lot of power and discretion in the hands of the UFC.  The plain language of this clause lets the UFC dictate the time place and number of press conferences.  So long as the demands do not become unreasonable, a term that is open to interpretation in any given situation, they are in the right to force their fighters to attend their press conferences.

As in any business dealing where both sides have a lot to gain and a lot to lose, hopefully cooler heads can prevail and compromise can be reached.  It is not in anyone’s interest to let this escalate to the stage where a court will tell them exactly how much promotion is “reasonable“.


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