Randy Couture pulled out of failed British mixed martial arts expo MMA Show Live after an agreed fee did not materialise on the due date. Sources close to the situation tell Fighters Only that Couture was to be paid his appearance fee on May 5, but that the date came and went without payment.
After speaking with organisers, Couture’s handlers were left with the impression that there were insufficient funds to pay his fee. Couture subsequently informed the MMA Show Live of his formal withdrawal from the expo.
A second source tells Fighters Only that the MMA Show Live organisers were engaged in “a gamble and game of brinkmanship”. There were 50 top name fighters booked for the event, Couture among them. Others included Michael Bisping, BJ Penn and lightweight champion Ben Henderson.
According to the source, the organisers were calculating that the top line-up would bring in a large amount of sponsorship revenue. One of the sponsors most assiduously courted was the production company behind The Expendables 2 motion picture.
Couture has a leading role in the franchise and the MMA Show Live organisers assumed - wrongly - that the producers could be brought in to a lucrative sponsorship package. Their attempts to land the sponsorship deal continued up until the date that Couture was to be paid, but proved fruitless even after the asking price was repeatedly lowered.
Most of the fighters booked to appear at the event, which was to take place this weekend, learned of the event’s cancellation via online reports, although MMA Show Live representatives appear to have been contacting them after the news broke to confirm cancellation.
Managers and fighters that Fighters Only spoke with said that misgivings had reared up in recent days when airline tickets failed to appear for their flights to the UK. Others noted that they had been sent hotel reservation notices, but that the rooms had only been reserved and had not been paid for.
The MMA Show Live executive team consisted of Paul Clifton, who has a background in the martial arts magazine publishing industry, and Liam Fisher, who was until recently the ’business development manager’ for UK promotion BAMMA.
Neither Clifton nor Fisher was reachable despite repeated attempts. The latter, who was working for Clifton rather than in partnership with him, has deleted his Twitter account and was yesterday directing enquiries towards Clifton, who has not answered any calls nor made any public comment on the cancellation.
The MMA Show Live website currently hosts a cancellation notice but in an accompany FAQ section, it claims that the show is merely postponed until October. Fans are advised that they can return their ticekts for a refund or can retain them until the October show - if it materialises.
But some have already pre-paid their travel and hotel rooms for this weekend’s show, and will be left out of pocket. There is a smaller, more ‘traditional’ martial arts expo taking place in the Birmingham NEC this weekend which ticket-holders can gain admittance to but with no MMA stars present, it is unlikely to be of much consolation to them.