A look inside the Cage Contender payment controversy

On Friday April 5th, Chris Stringer made a post on the hotspot for Irish MMA on Boards.ie with regard to Cage Contender 16, and claimed that he was down £150 due to Cage Contender skimping on costs, as well as a discrepancy with a custom track he was asked to play and receive a fee.

Adding to that, Stringer also named Chris McDonald as another fighter on the card who had received no payment for his participation that night. He went on to claim that John Redmond (fighter), Dave Jones (referee), Barry Oglesby (commentator) and Joseph Clifford (cut man) had not been paid for their work on the night either.

According to Stringer’s statement, the post came after many false claims from the promoter, John Ferguson, that the money had been lodged, would be lodged or was on the way in a couple of days.

There was, in fact, no money and John Ferguson should have been upfront with the fighters.

John Redmond, a fighter well established under the promotion’s banner, in usual fashion took to a video blog posted on his Facebook page to say that he was being told “week after week it had been paid”, with regard to his purse a the same event.

Judging by statements made, it seems Cage Contender were waiting on money they were owed and used the fighters purses and ticket sales as credit before they received the money they were owed.

This resulted in the company falling into a short term cash fault. Shareholder and owner of Boards.ie Tom Murphy said:
“What has happened is what can happen to many companies, big and small. It’s not a lack of finance, it’s a hiccup in cash flow. We are owed several tens of thousands ourselves and are waiting for that cash to be paid to us.
“That’s not your fault or indeed your problem. It is however, the situation we are in. Let me add that we have a new financial manager starting on Monday because this situation should not have been allowed to come to be.
“Bottom line, we expect to have all outstanding debts sorted out within two weeks, some much sooner than that.”

The question I have to ask is why are Cage Contender promoting their next event, when they still have debts outstanding from the previous show?

This is when the threads on boards.ie and CageWarriors started to turn a little bit sour.

Stewart Dollery, under the screen name “theboxingclinic”, posted a list of clubs that would not be supporting Cage Contender again – MMA Clinic, Team Ryano, Ryoshin MMA Lucan, Rush Fight Academy, Sean Scoil, Evolve, IFS, Legends, No Fear MMA, Drogheda MMA, Team Dungeon, Kyoujin, Karate Jutsu, Peformance Martial Arts.

Allegations were made that this sort of behaviour was going on for years. If it has, why it has taken until now for it to be brought up?

There began claims that a graphic designer was owned money, and a clothing company had paid money to sell gear at the event. We have received an off the record explanation from John Ferguson in relation to both of these items when I personally contacted him today (Wednesday April 10) and they will be revealed when “we’ve got our house in order” in an exclusive interview John has promised to give us (SevereMMA.com).

I also received pressure to write this article so that is when I started to call people. Today I rang The National Basketball Arena, The Kings Hall, The Balmoral Hotel and The Louis Fitzgerald Hotel, all of which are companies/businesses/ venues that have been used by Cage Contender.

As well as that I spoke with Paul Cowzer, Chris Stringer, a production company, a lighting company in the Republic of Ireland and I also attempted to contact Cage providers and clothing providers.

The NBA would not comment on the record. The Kings Hall told me that the fact Cage Contender would not be hosting their next event in Belfast was nothing to do with money, but an issue they could not disclose with me. The Balmoral Hotel and The Louis Fitzgerald Hotel both told me it was not their policy to discuss their clients with Journalists for any matter.

I rang Paul Cowzer to ask for a further comment and he said on the record he was just happy that his fighter John Redmond had been paid. At this time Paul says he can’t see an outcome where he would allow his fighters to be booked on Cage Contender, especially with the outstanding debts still unpaid

A breach of trust like this, would be extremely hard to repair in Paul’s opinion.

I contacted Chris Stringer who told me:
“I don’t care what the problem was that caused the cash flow problem, it shouldn’t have happened and it’s unacceptable to pay the guys who make the show and run the show late, not at all or not in full.”

An unnamed production company still hope to receive payment in the next two weeks as they had been told so various others in similar circumstances over the last couple of days. The lighting company told me on the record that they were still owed “less than half of what they were due”.

They had problems in the past with payment but were always paid eventually, including one incident when they had been given half of their payment and John Ferguson disappeared to get a cheque for the outstanding figure and never came back.

Paddy Kelly got in touch with Chris Stringer in relation to an outstanding debt of £3,400 and Chris later edited his post to say John had been in touch and he will sell his van if he has to in order to cover the costs.

As of this Wednesday, April 10 at 22:08, John Ferguson told me that “eight more people had been paid today”. Barry Oglesby who made an exclusive statement to us (read here), released another statement that he had been paid in full as of the same date.

A judge for the night David Swann has not been paid for his work and expenses by the time this article went to production.

A past incident in which Mark Connor was not paid his purse and was paid in full by Graham Boylan was also raised. Boylan claims that Ferguson owes him the money for this also. Paul McVeigh said he was paid in full for his 2010 appearance but it took a long time.

Understandably, the community could not approve of the way Cage Contender conducted their business and the fact clubs do not want to be associated with them any longer, makes sense under the current circumstances.

In closing, there is absolutely no excuse for not paying fighters and staff on the night of such an event, unless a prior agreement has been raised. A possible solution from here on out is that cut men, officials etc. be paid before the event and perhaps fighters could be paid out of the ticket money that is taken in at the door.

Updated to clarify Paul Cowzer’s comments