Thursday, February 21, 2008

BTT, Chute Box And The Commission Controversy

So on Tuesday, Sherdog's Tim Leidecker posted an article with the shrill title "The Downfall of BTT and Chutebox," making his story on fighters that have moved away from the highly respected Brazilian camps sound like a plot line from Julius Caesar.

The article doesn't contain any news, since it mostly just recounts the list of fighters who have started their own camps in the last year, but as far as an explanation for the phenomenon, the best Leidecker can manage is the insinuation that the camps charged exceedingly high commissions on their fighters' purses.

However, Leidecker never states the supposedly exorbitant rate, and apparently didn't conduct any interviews or any other, ya know, research to see if that is in fact the reason for the fighter exodus. So what we're left with is a piece of apparently unconfirmed speculation, and the announcement that Leidecker has a hard-on for the recently formed Gracie Fusion camp (no word on what they're charging, however.)

The article seems to have seriously gotten under the skin of Murilo Bustamante, the fighter face of BTT. Today, Tatame posted a very cranky response from Bustamante, much of it about BTT's commission rate. He says that BTT charges fighters 10% of their purses for training and 10% for management, a rate Bustamante claims is half of what he paid as a fighter prior to founding BTT.

He argues that a 20% commission is more than reasonable when you consider what that amounts to for low-level fighters: in his example, $17 a month, based on $200 purses earned five times a year. He goes on to say that a guy can train for a couple of years paying these meager commissions, and if he flops on the fight circuit, he can always open a small gym in some Brazilian suburb and happily live out a quiet middle class life on the income from his dojo.

All good points, but you can see how the math gets less favorable as you go up the pay-scale. A fighter who is headlining events in Japan and raking in half a mil a year is paying about $8,300 a month in commissions, a pretty big chunk of change in a country where the average monthly salary is well under a thousand dollars. But how does a guy get into a position to make that kind of money in the first place? Well, with top-level training and an agent who can get you booked at the Saitama Super Arena, that's how. So it's not exactly highway robbery, as Leidecker implies, but at the same time you can see where the incentive comes from to start a break-away camp.

Either way, it would be nice to hear from the fighters themselves. Naturally, fighters that have broken off from BTT or Chute Box won't want to burn bridges, so they may not provide completely satisfying answers. But still, it's not unreasonable to expect the MMA media to do a little grunt work to answer the important questions in a story, such as: what do other camps in Brazil charge? Is that the same standard in the U.S.? Might there be other factors? Are the break-away camps really trying to do the same thing as BTT and Chute Box? I hope we can answer questions such as these at some point in the near future.

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