“M-1 KOREA” event cancelled amid contractual non-payments

Courtesy MFight.co.kr
Courtesy MFight.co.kr

MMA-in-ASIA has learned that “M-1 Korea”, which was postponed from June 22 to August 17, is now cancelled amid contractual non-payments.

“M-1 Korea” first popped onto the radar via their direct contacts to Korean-language media, then slowly made it into English sites via rumors and second-hand information. The company, rumored as taking license from M-1 Global yet not directly managed underneath them, announced the signing of some well-known international athletes and Korean fighters for their inaugural show dubbed “Monster War” on June 22, 2013. It was timed to go head-to-head with Korea’s established promotion ROAD FC’s twelfth event on the same day, as well as Japan’s kickboxing/MMA promotion HEAT making its foray into the Korean market.

The fight card was impressive: Brett Rogers vs. Dave Keeley, Jeff Monson vs. Douglas Humberto, Daniel Acacio vs. Yuki Sasaki, Dave Menne vs. Silmar Sombra, Yun Seob Kwak vs. Henrique Shiguemot, Crazy Kwang Lee vs. Ezekiel Kondo, Bum Chan Kang vs. Alexandre Ramos, Doo Jae Jung vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida, and Ben Lagman vs. Danny Mitchell. The event was to take place at KINTEX in Seoul.

M-1 Korea never established an online entity, instead revealing details only through local media outlets. Ten days before the event was meant to commence, Korea’s Naver Sports announced that the event was delayed until August 17th. The famous actor Kim BoSeong who starred with Fedor Emelianenko and Rutger Hauer in a recent action movie was the Honorary Chairman and he said that he was too busy and was stepping down. The promoter said that because of “large fluctuations in the matches” it was KINTEX who decided to make the delay.

MMA Planet first broke the latest complications with “M-1 Korea” in this article, which quotes SuckerPunch Entertainment personnel, the manager for many of the athletes who were signed to the card. MMA-in-ASIA has followed up with SuckerPunch’s Shu Hirata on the issue. Hirata stated that he originally negotiated with the fledgling promotion in April this year for 6 of SuckerPunch’s managed fighters to appear on the inaugural card, including including Dave Menne, Daniel Acacio, and Yoshiyuki Yoshida. As it was the promotion’s first event, due to no proven track record, Hirata negotiated for his fighters to receive 20% of the fight money at the time of contracting, and an additional 30% at 14 days before the date of the event, even requesting a copy of contract with venue to prove the event was set (which the promotion also provided to Korea’s MFight.co.kr in May). “Once we signed,” Hirata stated, “Only two fighters, Yoshida and Menne got the 20%, so we started asking when the other fighters were getting their money.”

That’s when M-1 Korea announced the postponement to August 17th. SuckerPunch’s players agreed to the postponement date. However, Hirata remarked, “That’s another two months in which our clients could have gotten another fight, so we requested the remaining 30% immediately.” When even the initial deposit wasn’t received, Hirata says he repeatedly contacted the promoter, who in turn gave promises of impending payment and excuses as to why the money was not sent. Then, he says “About three weeks ago I received three wires of $980 each, which didn’t correspond to a clear amount due to any fighter according to the contracts, still I distributed it to our clients though the entire amount due was never received.”

Then on August 5th, Hirata was notified by the promoter that the event was cancelled and no reason was provided. The promoter made no request regarding the deposits paid to SuckerPunch Entertainment. MMA-in-ASIA has contacted M-1 President Kang SunHo regarding the cancellation, but has not received a response.

The cancellation is reminiscent of the 1990s when many factions attempted to get into the business of promoting MMA fights, and many failed, leaving a black mark on Korea’s early MMA history. However, the current state of the industry will hopefully prove it can weather this minor squall. The current steady progress of ROAD FC, now on their 13th event and looking to expand internationally, and the entry of TOP FC under Korean Top Team management – both with tertiary broadcasts – should prove that the Korean market is solid enough to shake off M-1 Korea’s blotch on the MMA scene.