Further Update August 11, 2017 – it is now reported that Zuffa is indeed seeking to be licenced as a co-promoter of this bout.
Update June 20, 2017 – The NAC replied to my public records request confirming that, at this date, Mayweather Promotions is the only licence promoter for this bout.
Today the surprising news broke that UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather have come to terms for a boxing bout.
A key question is what role is Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company, playing in this historic bout? They undoubtedly are contracted to pocket a significant slice of the action but in what capacity? Manager? Promoter? Other?
McGregor is currently under an exclusive UFC contract. While his contract is not public record UFC contracts generally have the following exclusivity clause and there is reason to believe McGregor is bound by such a term:
“During the Term, Zuffa shall have the exclusive right to promote all of Fighter’s bouts and Fighter shall not participate in or render his services as a professional fighter or in any capacity to any mixed martial art, martial art, boxing, professional wrestling, or any other fighting competition or exhibition, except as otherwise expressly permitted by this Agreement“.
Zuffa have presumably waived or provided consent under this clause. This is where things get a little interesting.
The bout’s announcement has Mayweather Promotions, not the UFC, listed as the promoter for the bout
If the UFC is not a promoter, how are they getting a slice of McGregor’s purse?
Perhaps they are doing so as a manger. Nevada, the jurisdiction governing this bout, regulates the relationship between boxers and managers. Specifically a manager is defined to include anyone that has”any financial interest in the unarmed combatant’s management or earnings from contests or exhibitions.”. If the UFC is not a promoter and are taking part of McGregor’s purse they seem to meet this definition.
If so Nevada law limits the UFC’s cut of Conor’s purse to 1/3 with NAC 467.102(6) stating “A manager or managers may not participate separately or collectively in more than 33 1/3 percent of the earnings of the unarmed combatant in the ring“. To those familiar with the financial side of the MMA landscape, it is hard to imagine the UFC being content with only 1/3 of McGregor’s take of the action.
Perhaps the UFC is still acting as a promoter but not the sole promoter of this bout. This is legally interesting as well. Now that McGregor is a licensed professional boxer in the US he enjoys all the protections of the Muhammad Ali Act. If you are unfamiliar with this legislation you can click here for a section by section breakdown of all the protections it grants boxers which MMA fighters do not enjoy.
If the UFC are acting as the promoter of a boxing event they too become subject to Ali Act requirements. Among these are prohibitions against ‘coercive contracts’ and McGregor’s UFC contract, which in part restricts his ability to box, may very well violate several provisions of the Ali Act.
It is worth noting, however, that a pre-condition of the Ali Act applying to a promoter is that promoter must be “the person primarily responsible for organizing, promoting, and producing a professional boxing match.” To the extent that Mayweather is the “primary” promoter and the UFC is a lesser co-promoter they may have found a loophole to let them get what they want.
It is unclear exactly how the UFC have structured their deal with McGregor to allow them to a piece of the pie and whether they are trying to keep more than 1/3 of McGregor’s end of the deal. It is also unclear whether this deal is structured in any way to protect the UFC from potential scrutiny of McGregor’s MMA contract under the Ali Act now that he is a professional boxer and the UFC may be a boxing promoter.
I have made a public records request to the Nevada Athletic Commission for any contracts and licences that may shed light on how this deal is structured. If anything productive is produced in response I will update this article.