Anti-Trust Lawsuit Reveals Joe Silva’s Negotiating Tactics


The Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) is currently battling an anti-trist lawsuit and thanks to some recently un-redacted passages from an Expert Report by Hal J. Singer, such things as how fighter contracts and former match maker Joe Silva’s alleged negotiating tactics have been revealed.

One of Singer’s passages, obtained by Bloody Elbow, reveals that most UFC contracts have a clause that  “include provisions that toll the agreement for any period that a fighter is injured, retired, or otherwise unable or unwilling to appear in a bout.” The toll part of the agreement means that the UFC is able to pause, delay or suspend a time period in a fighter’s contract.

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Another passage reveals that before November of 2012, a tactic used by the UFC was to extend the amount of time a fighter could be under contract due to injury.

UFC fighter Matt Wiman had the following email exchange with Zuffa Fighter Relations member Tracy Long about his contract being extended due to injury.

Wiman wrote:

“I’m a little confused about my extension... Can u explain it in simpler terms to me... I was only injured 2-3 months and the letter states an 8 month extension.”

Long replied with:

“Joe Silva gave me the time frame. I believe it is based upon when you last fought and when you will fight. You last fought on October 1, 2011. You are now scheduled to fight on September 29, 2012.” 

Wiman concluded with:

“So all the months I’m training and waiting patiently are not counted?” This is bc there’s so many fighters and you all have to honor your contracts?”

Former UFC fighter Bryan Caraway also asked about his contract being extended, saying:

“I was only hurt for 2 months?? Why is my contract being extended 6 months?”

A direct quote from an unnamed UFC fighter’s contract also said the following about contract extensions due to injury:

“Fighter hereby irrevocably grants Zuffa two (2) separate one year-option periods (each referred to herein as an “Option Period”) to extend the duration of this Agreement including all of Fighter’s obligations hereunder... ZUFFA shall have been deemed to have exercised any applicable Option Period unless ZUFFA notifies Fighter in writing of ZUFFA’s intent not to exercise a certain Option Period by thirty (30) days prior to the commencement of the applicable Option Period... Zuffa shall provide Fighter with the opportunity to compete at least three (3) Bouts during the Initial Period and during each Option Period that ZUFFA chooses to exercise...”).

Another typical practice of the UFC is to try and re-sign a fighter when said fighter reaches the final bout of their contract. However, if a fighter decides to fight through the contract, it could allow the UFC to extend the deal using the aforementioned toll option if said contract allows it.

Jon Fitch, former UFC fighter and current Bellator MMA star, also stated that the UFC may sometimes have a contracted talent wait out their contract instead of offering a final bout to conclude the original deal.

“If I didn’t sign up, if I didn’t to do the re-up with the contract, I wouldn’t have gotten a bout agreement,” stated Fitch.

Fitch also knows of two fighters (allegedly Andrei Arlovski and Roger Huerta) who also went through a similar situation:

“I know two examples where the guys were brave enough to see it through. Most guys know if you don’t sign the re-up, you don’t get your bout agreement. If you don’t get your bout agreement, you don’t get paid, you don’t get money, you can’t feed your children.”

Silva was asked about the alleged UFC practice and said that following:

“If a fighter refused the new deal you were offering between the third and fourth fight, he would face a situation where he was fighting that last fight at less compensation than he would have gotten had he accepted the new deal? Yes, he chose to fight at less money.”

Another move the UFC could allegedly make on fighters was to extend their contract for up to six months if a competitor turned down a fight, which is something Silva said when questioned:

“In principle, Zuffa could retain a Fighter under contract in perpetuity if the Fighter refused to accept matchups that Zuffa proposed.”

This ploy was used by the UFC with UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones when he was first offered a bout with Alexander Gustafsson, which was revealed in an email exchange between UFC lawyer Lawrence Epstein, Assistant General Counsel Kirk Hendrick and Senior Vice President Business, Legal, and Government Affairs Mike Mersch:

“We need to send him a letter formally offering the Gustafson (sic) fight and giving him a specific deadline to accept or reject. When he says no we need to extend him.”

An email was also revealed from Silva, showing that he had initially tried to low ball Nick Diaz during contract negotiations in 2010:

“I lowballed them on purpose the first offer knowing they would turn it down. How bout I come back with 29+29, 32+32, 35+35, 38+38. If they turn it down I put him in a prelim against a really tough guy for his last fight.”

Documents also revealed that Silva had once convinced former Bellator MMA Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard to accept a fight at half of his contracted amount in order to avoid being cut by the promotion.

More about the UFC’s practices is going to be revealed as the anti-trust lawsuit moves on. 

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