The Muhammad Ali Act contains a section protecting fighters from ?coercive contracts.? The Act seeks to curb several of the most restrictive, onerous, and anti-competitive contracting practices which promoters have imposed on professional boxers. Specifically, the Act greatly curtails the practice of requiring promotional ?options,? which is the practice of contractually requiring an ?exclusive long term promotional contract with a boxing challenger as a condition precedent to permitting a bout against another boxer that the promoter has under contract.?27 This practice of requiring ?options? stifles competition. As the legislative history of the Act declares, the ?athletes would be better served, as would open competition in the sport, if boxers were free to contract with those promoters they personally choose, rather than being coerced to contract with a promoter who is in the position of barring a lucrative bout.?28 Such is the principle of most laws governing employment and personal services contracts.
Indeed, it appears as though the Couture-Emelianenko bout did not occur because of Zuffa?s insistence upon obtaining promotional options. As reported by multiple sources, Zuffa?s offer to Fedor Emelianenko was apparently the most lucrative. Emelianenko, however, objected to the onerous requirements of the Zuffa promotional contract being offered and refused to sign with Zuffa.29 As a result, according to Dana White, Emelianenko went from ?the number one Heavy Weight on the planet? to ?Fedor sucks! He?s not even a top 5 Heavyweight.? Likewise, with Matt Lindland, who at one point was the logical contender for a title match, only to be later dropped entirely from the division.
The Ali Act Makes Matches Like Couture-Emelianenko More Likely
and Increases a Fighter?s Leverage to Obtain Higher Purses
Additionally, Randy Couture?s contract reportedly contains a so-called ?Champion?s Clause,? which serves to extend the term of the Zuffa promotional agreement in the event a fighter is a champion in a weight-class at the end of the contractual term. The clause provides that ?if, at the expiration of the Term, Fighter is then UFC champion, the Term shall be automatically extended for a period commencing on the Termination Date and ending on the earlier of (i) one (1) year from the Termination Date; or (ii) the date on which Fighter has participated in three (3) bouts promoted by ZUFFA following the Termination Date (?Extension Term?). Any references to the Term herein shall be deemed to include a reference to the Extension Term, where applicable.?30 This clause serves to not only prevent a fighter from fighting outside the promotion, but also restricts his ability to negotiate for higher pay after securing a title. This provision, under the Ali Act, and possibly the contract in whole would be deemed void if the Ali Act governed mixed martial arts.31