ONE Championship Announces Controversial “Agent Certification Program”

The Asian combat sports promotion One Championship has just released details of a controversial agent licencing program.  In a tweet last night Ariel Helwani published the following details apparently coming from a One Championship press release:

…ONE Championship has increased requirements and standards for the ONE Agent Certification Program.  The ONE Agent Certification was originally created to establish uniform standards of eligibility and conduct for all Agents, Managers, and/or Advisors seeking to work with ONE Athletes.  This program ensures that minimum requirements are met and maintained before an Agent, Manager and/or Advisor is eligible to work with a ONE athlete. 

All Agents representing any ONE Championship athlete must be accredited with the ONE Agent Certification.  ONE Championship reserves the right to revoke or deny the accreditation of any agent in its sole discretion.

Qualifications and Eligibility Criteria:

You must meet the following minimum requirements in order to be certified as a ONE Agent:

  • Currently a resident in Asia for at least one year
  • No prior criminal record
  • No history or current ongoing matters of legal or lawsuit activity with any athlete
  • A minimum of 10 years of related experience in the martial arts industry
  • Must possess a College or University Degree

Much like the UFC justified their “outfitting policy” as not stripping the rights of fighters but protecting them from shady operators, ONE looks to sell this policy as one that protects fighters:

Why is this controversial?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having minimum standards for sports agents.  It is a good thing.

As previously discussed, the NFLPA requires managers to certified.  They must have a degree from an accredited college or university and their fees are capped at 3%.  The MLBPA requires that agents only charge fees on salaries negotiated over and above the league’s collectively bargained minimum.  The NBPA requires agents to be certified and requires agents to have a degree from an accredited university or college.  The association also lists prohibited conduct by agents, a breach of which can lead to stripping of certification.  The NHLPA requires agent certification and requires that a player pocket at least the league minimum collectively bargained salary after the agent takes their cut.

See the trend?  Athletes set minimum standards of who can represent them.  Not their employers.  Having a promoter set limits on who can represent fighters is like having an opposing party in a lawsuit certify who you can use as your own lawyer.  Its absurd.  Managers owe a fiduciary duties to their client not to the promoter sitting on the opposite end of the bargaining table.

I imagine a policy such as this would come under regulatory scrutiny if ONE sought licencing in the US or Canada where conflicts of interest between managers and promoters are regulated.  Nevada, for example, prohibits promoters from acting as managers with NAC 467.104 reading as follows:

An unarmed combatant may not have a promoter or any of its members, stockholders, officials, matchmakers or assistant matchmakers:

     1.  Act directly or indirectly as his or her manager; or

     2.  Hold any financial interest in the unarmed combatant’s management or earnings from contests or exhibitions.

If fighters ever meaningfully organize they can set terms and licencing standards for their agents as has been done in many other professional sports.  A promoter has no business doing so.  Rob Maysey, the lawyer behind the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association had the following critical comments regarding this policy:

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