What’s Up with Georges St-Pierre and his UFC contract?

Georges St-PierreFor those of you who follow mixed martial arts, Georges St-Pierre’s name certainly rings a bell. According to the famed fighter’s website, St-Pierre has been training since he was 7 years old, when he started studying Kyokushin karate.

Since then, the 170-lbs fighter earned 25 wins, succumbing to defeat only twice in his career. Despite St-Pierre’s dedication and talent, he hasn’t made many headlines in the ring over the past few years. In 2013, the fighter announced he would be leaving the UFC indefinitely, indicating that he wanted to pursue other endeavors.

However, that song changed this year. According to Sports Illustrated, St-Pierre intended to return to the ring in 2016, but a contract dispute between St.-Pierre and the UFC stanched such discussions. 

New UFC regulations put a hitch in Georges St-Pierre’s plans 

ESPN noted that St-Pierre announced his free agency on “The MMA Hour” in late October, asserting that his lawyer James Quinn terminated the former welterweight champion’s agreement with the UFC. In contrast, the UFC still viewed St-Pierre as a rostered athlete. In a statement, the professional MMA league asserted that St-Pierre is still in an existing contract with UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, LLC, which has every intention of honoring the agreement, which should compel St-Pierre to reciprocate under the eyes of the law. 

What complicated St-Pierre’s return? ESPN noted the fighter’s contract was signed before the UFC established an exclusive apparel agreement with Reebok in 2014. Sports Illustrated noted that before St-Pierre announced he was taking an indefinite leave from fighting in 2013, the UFC wasn’t regulating fighter apparel. Its athletes could wear sponsored gear and attire to attract more revenue. MMA Fighting noted that, after the Reebok deal took place, fighters were no longer permitted to wear sponsorship apparel, a policy which received much backlash from the league’s participants

“[The Reebok deal] changed a lot of things in my contract,” said St-Pierre, as quoted by MMA Fighting. In the background of this, WME-IMG purchased UFC when St-Pierre wasn’t fighting for a whopping $4.2 billion, further complicating the fighter’s contract, according to MMA Fighting. 

Georges St-Pierre’s lawyer renegotiating deal 

As of right now, St-Pierre’s contract with the UFC is terminated. MMA Mania noted Quinn, who isn’t a stranger to tussling with large sports organizations, claimed he was astounded upon reading St-Pierre’s contract. Apparently, the agreement placed a lot of restrictions on the fighter.

“[The UFC is] basically tying him up for life,” said Quinn. “They have no rights and they own all of his licensing and all the other things. It’s unheard of in the other professional sports. And they won’t get away with it forever … I don’t think the contract – that formal contract – is likely to stand up. Not in today’s world. It’s a pretty nice form of slavery.” 

Quinn maintained that there is a possibility Georges St-Pierre and the UFC could find common ground, but whether that happens is anybody’s guess. The case is another example of how an organization’s partnerships can impact its employment contracts.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, Anthony Caruso, at 201-806-3364.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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