M-1 Global has staked claim to Bellator middleweight Vyacheslav Vasilevsky in a Dutch court and plans to pursue the fighter in the U.S.
A judgement won this past Thursday awards damages to the Russia-based promotion that amount to several hundred thousand Euros and bars him from fighting in Bellator or any other organization. Neither Vasilevsky or his representatives were present in court.
"We're disappointed that we had to take this step," M-1 Global Director of Operations Evgeni Kogan told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
M-1 asserts that the middleweight (16-1 MMA, 1-0 BFC) has been in breach of contract for over a year and is tied to the promotion until mid-2013. Vasilevsky signed with Bellator this past November and made his promotional debut this past Friday at Bellator 61, where he advanced to the semifinals of the promotion's season-six tournament with a decision over Victor O'Donnell (11-4 MMA, 0-2 BFC).
But Vasilevsky's manager, Sam Kardan, who said he and his fighter were unaware of M-1's legal action and weren't notified of it, believes M-1 does not have an enforceable contract with the fighter.
"When Bellator signed him back in November, I know at that point, the fighter requested – and I believe Bellator has done the same – requested a copy of the (M-1) contract," Kardan said. "If he was presented a contract, I'm pretty sure Bellator would not have signed him. I'm pretty positive of that. So for almost six months, [M-1 hasn't] presented any kind of contract that would state they do have an existing agreement with him."
The judgement orders Vasilevsky to pay 1000 euros for each day he's been in breach of contract as well as 5000 euros for every day he fights in another promotion, plus court fees, Kogan said. He added that the fighter was served notice of the pending legal action by process server.
M-1 will ask a U.S. court to uphold the judgement. Vasilevsky is a Russian national and resides in Fairfield, N.J., on a work visa.
Bellator officials declined comment on the ruling. In a prepared statement released this past November after M-1 initially claimed Vasilevsky, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney stated, "Vasilevsky's management specifically represented to Bellator that there is currently no enforceable agreement between Vasilevsky and M-1 or any other promotional group.
"If Bellator is given reliable proof that this representation was somehow false, we will certainly respect any existing and enforceable agreement that M-1 and Vasilevsky may have, just as Bellator expects others to respect the agreements that we have with our fighters."
Kogan confirmed that M-1 did not send Vasilevsky's contract to Bellator officials but said multiple attempts to resolve the situation with Vasilevsky and Bellator were unsuccessful, which prompted M-1 to file suit in Holland. M-1 ultimately wants the fighter to fulfill the contract.
"We made his career," Kogan said. "Prior to M-1 Challenge, few people knew who he was. So once this is done, what will actually happen is that he'll be forced to deal with us, where he gets to do what he does best, which is fight."
Kogan said earlier that Vasilevsky was expected to fight UFC vet Mario Miranda at an M-1 Challenge event this past November but withdrew from the bout citing a lingering hand injury. Kardan responded that he negotiated with Bellator on that basis that his fighter represented in writing that he wasn't bound to any promotion.
But M-1 said that isn't true, and the promotion will now attempt to bring the fighter back into the fold through the courts.
"Even though the US is a long way away, and it seems like when you leave Russia you can get away from contracts, that is not actually the case," Kogan said.