Ex-Strikeforce champ Marloes Coenen appeared to have called Zuffa, LLC co-owner Dana White's bluff on Thursday night.
However, according to the UFC president, his words remain true.
Coenen, along with her Golden Glory teammates Jon Olav Einemo and Valentijn Overeem were cut for one simple reason, according to White: Zuffa simply can't do business the way the Dutch firm would prefer.
"The Golden Glory guys told us, 'You're going to pay us.'" White on Thursday night told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
). "We said, 'No, we're not. We're paying the fighters directly. We're not going to do that."
The quote echoes what the UFC boss said earlier in the day, when he was questioned about the decision following this afternoon's UFC 133 pre-event press conference.
"We don't want that," White said about Golden Glory executives' reported desire to have fighter checks issued to the team for eventual disbursement to their fighters. "It's not the way we do business. It's not how it works in the U.S. You don't pay the manager and the manager pays the fighter. You pay the fighter, and the fighter pays the manager."
Moments after he made that statement, in an interview with MMA Fighting, White offered further clarification on the proper terms for payment under the jurisdiction of athletic commissions in the U.S.
"Before a fight, the money goes into an account for the purses, and the athletic commission writes the checks," White said. "The commission writes the checks to the fighters, and then the fighters pay the managers or their trainers or whoever else they have to pay."
In an apparent response to that statement, Coenen tweeted a photo of her Forza, LLC (a subsidiary of UFC and Strikeforce parent company Zuffa, LLC)-issued check for public inspection as a way to prove her ex-employers at Strikeforce were paying her directly – not her management company, Golden Glory, as White insisted the Dutch-based firm was attempting to arrange.
White said the check was issued as such due to his company's insistence, but that Golden Glory executives were certainly not happy about the deal.
"Even when we did the deal with Einemo (for a fight at UFC 131), we told them, 'We're paying the fighters,'" White told MMAjunkie.com. "Even though they agreed to the deal, they later came out and were flipping out during the event wanting to change the deal.'"
As it turns out, White's initial explanation of the process wasn't entirely accurate, even if the premise of the concept was sound. In many states, athletic commissions simply hold the agreed-upon purse checks as proof of the promotion's intent to pay before distributing said checks on fight night. For instance, Illinois – where Coenen fought in July and where the check in question was earned – does not require any sort of escrow deposit, and checks are simply passed on as arranged.
In fact, according to the commission's website, the state's MMA regulatory act only requires promoters to disclose "the amount of the purses to be paid to the professionals for the event" in order to achieve sanctioning.
Essentially, White isn't denying that his company wrote a check to Coenen. Instead, he's insisting that Coenen's management wasn't exactly thrilled with the arrangement and that he couldn't continue to employ that team's fighters knowing that it would prove an ongoing battle. Additional sources close to the situation suggested Strikeforce's contracts prior to the company's acquisition may have been a little looser in structure and that payment arrangements were at times a little more creative than the black-and-white structure of the current Zuffa deals.
Further sources familiar with the negotiations suggested Golden Glory fighters are often willing to simply sign over their checks to Golden Glory, regardless to whom they are issued. MMAjunkie.com was unable to confirm those requests on-record, but veteran MMA reporter Josh Gross seemed to suggest the relationship with her management is one of complete trust.
"Marloes Coenen just told me she wants Golden Glory to handle payments because of tax purposes," Gross stated on Twitter. "She's paid direct and knows what she makes."
Golden Glory trainer Martin de Jong told MMAjunkie.com he was disappointed at the moves, but the team's management has yet to speak on-record. Golden Glory co-founder Bas Boon has promised a statement will be forthcoming shortly. His primary business partner, Ron Nyqvist, remains a silent investor while completing a prison sentence.
White said he welcomes an open-forum discussion, as he insists there is nothing to hide. Change your practices, adhere to clearly defined requirements, and the UFC and Strikeforce are both happy to consider your services.
"I'm pro-fighter," White said. "I'm not pro-manager. The fighters go out and earn the money. They get the check. What they decide to do with it from there on out is up to them.
"I have nothing against these fighters. I have nothing against Golden Glory. The commissions are there to make sure there are never any bounced checks. We're required to do business a certain way, and we have no choice but to comply."