Six weeks after its debut show, South Korean promotion Battlefield FC has failed to pay the bulk of its fighters, with some now pursuing legal action as a last resort.
The newly-formed promotion held its inaugural show at the Olympic Hall in Seoul on 18 March, with a stellar cast of athletes from Strikeforce veteran Joe Ray, former ONE middleweight champion Igor Svirid, American grappler Jeff Glover and women’s Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman.
BFC 1: The Great Beginning launched to mixed reviews. Ticket sales were said to be at around 800, despite Battlefield paying high-profile guests Cris “Cyborg” Justino and Benson Henderson to attend. A lack of local talent at the top end of the card was also a detrimental factor to attracting a Korean audience, sources say.
The following day things got worse after Battlefield executives forced fighters to sign new contracts agreeing to have their fight purse transferred electronically within two weeks.
“Battlefield MMA owes me ALOT of money. No one got paid, and we’re all givin i owe yous,” Jeff Glover said in an Instagram post that was later deleted.
Six weeks on and many are yet to receive payment.
“It’s a disaster,” said Stan Kolesnitchenko, founder and chief executive of MMA X-RAY Management, whose three athletes, including main card winner Igor Svirid, Tilek Mashrapov and Zhyrgalbek Emilbekov have all had payment withheld.
“I have tried to give the organisers the benefit of the doubt, but they keep telling me a different story. I’m not asking for something we don’t deserve. I’m asking for the money they owe my fighters.”
To make matters worse, Kolesnitchenko told The Fight Nation that Igor Svirid’s US$10,000 purse was to be used for his wedding, which has now been called off.
“Ten thousand dollars might not be a lot of money for them, but in Kazakhstan it’s a significant amount.
“Igor’s life has gone downhill. The wedding is off, his girlfriend’s parents have put a big shame on him and the love of his life is never going to be his wife.”
Joe Ray, a MMA veteran of 18 fights, was also promised payment by the end of April, but says that now looks unlikely.
“This is unacceptable and very unprofessional,” he said.
“It’s not just that we don’t get paid so we move on and forget about it. This is how I make a living. When I sign to fight for a certain amount of money, I plan my finances and life according to what I will be paid.
“I don’t earn a salary, if we don’t fight we don’t get paid,” he said.
The Fight Nation reached out to Battlefield executives for comment, including general manager Peter Shin and matchmaker Tommy Yang, but all calls and messages have gone unanswered.
TFN understands that 15 of the 24 participants on the card have yet to receive payment – an outstanding amount of around US$100,000.
All Korean fighters are yet to be paid, but have been promised payment by 16 May.
Correspondence seen by TFN shows Battlefield was planning to hold at least seven fights this year, but payment issues have left a sour taste.
“I would love to fight again, but if they can’t get the first show right what can I do,” Joe Ray added.
“Myself, along with most of the other fighters have training expenses, prior obligations, bills and people who depend on them.”
Stan Kolesnitchenko added that anyone under his management would not participate in a future Battlefield event, should there be one.
“I have had fighters competing at ONE Championship and ROAD FC and have never had a bad experience like this. I’m going to let my attorney take over.
“Battlefield 2 will be in court,” he said.