Former Pride Fighting Championships welterweight and middleweight titleholder Dan Henderson this week filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the clothing company MMA Authentics in California Superior Court in Vista, Calif.
The suit, which seeks both monetary and injunctive relief, claims MMA Authentics owes Henderson $50,000 plus undetermined royalties under a contract he signed with the Ohio-based apparel manufacturer on July 27, 2007. The company sells clothing under the Cage Fighter, MMA Authentics and Familia Gladitoria brands.
“I haven’t seen the complaint,” MMA Authentics Vice President Michael DiSabato told Sherdog.com Thursday. “I’ve breached nothing.”
According to the suit, MMA Authentics failed to pay Henderson a second $30,000 guaranteed royalty down payment that was due by May 1, 2008 plus subsequent royalties of 15 percent of the gross proceeds for Henderson licensed products and four percent for non-Henderson licensed merchandise through the Cage Fighter and MMA Authentics brands. The document also states that MMA Authentics failed to “provide adequate quarterly accounting statements as required by the Contract” to determine what said royalties are.
The lawsuit also contends that MMA Authentics refused to pay an additional $20,000 sponsorship fee for logo placement Henderson donned on his clothing during his appearance against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 82 last March.
In a letter DiSabato sent to Henderson on March 25, MMA Authentics stated it terminated its contract with the fighter because he breached exclusivity terms to only wear its own clothing brands. Henderson wore a T-shirt from a rival clothing company, One More Round, during his appearance at UFC 82.
“Dan’s a wonderful fighter, but I think he’s been misadvised,” said DiSabato. “The contact clearly states that it was an exclusive licensing and representation deal. He wore that shirt in the hometown of the company he represents. Some things you just don’t do. Tell him to go back to grammar school and learn how to read. What does exclusivity mean? Exclusivity means exclusive.”
Contrary to DiSabato’s claims, Henderson’s lawsuit argues the fighter followed the terms of the contract pertaining to his T-shirt preferences explicitly.
In a copy of Henderson’s contract with MMA Authentics obtained by Sherdog.com, the company was granted exclusive rights to “utilize the Athlete’s name, signature, and likeness” for various products, including T-shirts.
In another section of the contract, separate terms stipulated that MMA Authentics would be granted space for its logo on Henderson’s “uniform” on the “upper right shoulder of tee shirt worn before and after the match” with its size not to exceed three inches by two inches. The terms stated MMA Authentics would also be designated spots on the fighter’s shorts and hat. The language did not specify that Henderson’s “uniform” must consist of MMA Authentics branded clothing.
Henderson’s lawsuit contends the fighter not only satisfied the terms set forth in the contract, but that he provided MMA Authentics more sponsorship placement than what was agreed upon for no extra compensation, this despite last-minute posturing by the clothing company to alter the deal.
“Regarding MMA Authentics business ethics, it entered into a contract to pay for sponsorship placement on Mr. Henderson’s shorts, shirt and hat at UFC 82,” wrote Henderson’s attorney, Craig Holiday, in an e-mail to Sherdog.com. “Subsequently, DiSabato insisted on renegotiating the contract. After, Henderson declined to modify the contract, DiSabato threatened to cancel the contract just weeks before UFC 82. Unsure of DiSabato’s intentions, Henderson sought assurances that DiSabato would honor the contract.”
Both Holiday and the lawsuit state that DiSabato agreed that Henderson would be paid per the contract in correspondence dated Feb. 21. Holiday said Henderson then fulfilled his obligations set forth in the contract.
“DiSabato, however, refused to pay anything after the fight,” wrote Holiday. “Such actions were in bad faith and very dishonorable to Mr. Henderson.”
In the termination letter, DiSabato also contends Henderson breached his contract by not wearing an MMA Authentics hat in his post-fight interview at UFC 82 and by allowing One More Round to sell replicas of the T-shirt Henderson wore that night on its Web site.
A representative for Henderson confirmed that the fighter forgot to put on the hat following his loss to Silva but said the clothing company had been granted more advertising space for its logos elsewhere on Henderson’s clothing, which went above and beyond the contract. The representative said One More Round had also sold 90 Henderson-themed T-shirts without the fighter’s approval or knowledge and that a cease and desist letter was immediately dispatched upon learning of the sales.
Also under discrepancy in the lawsuit is the use of Henderson’s name and likeness without his permission on numerous occasions, but most notably when DiSabato allegedly advertised the former champion’s presence at a charity event the day before his fight with Silva. Henderson said he never agreed to attend the event, which was advertised to benefit the widow and child of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq, as he had to prepare for his bout with Silva. The suit states that Henderson requested on numerous occasions that the company remove his name and likeness from the advertisement.
Henderson was also concerned about the event upon learning that Ohio State University allegedly declined to associate with it due to “mechanisms behind the charity.”
The suit contends the use of Henderson’s name, likeness and identity for an event he could not attend caused the fighter harm. Henderson’s attorney said the fighter received complaints afterward from MMA fans who paid to attend the charity event expecting to meet him.
“Despite numerous requests to DiSabato to remove Henderson’s name and likeness from misleading advertisements during the six weeks preceding UFC 82, on information and belief, DiSabato refused and either negligently or knowing proceeded even though the account was false,” the suit states. “Although Henderson applauds the general idea of the charity in helping the family of an American Marine, he did not want his name to be used in a misleading manner since he could not attend.”
However, DiSabato lays blame at the fighter’s feet.
“We gave Dan plenty of notice about the event,” DiSabato said. “He was too busy to give up 15 minutes of his time to benefit a fallen Marine. The Sunday after the event, he showed up at his own after-party, drink in hand, and had a hell of a time.”
When contacted by Sherdog.com Thursday, DiSabato claimed he was still unaware that a lawsuit had been filed against his company.
“The suit’s laughable,” DiSabato said. “Unfortunately, there are people in this business who throw something at a wall and hope it sticks. Dan’s got a lot of people around him looking to pat themselves on the back. We didn’t breach the contract.”