According to Brian Butler-Au, the founder and CEO of prominent MMA management firm Suckerpunch Entertainment, one of his clients, Drako Rodriguez (5-1), was called upon by the UFC to fill in for Sean O’Malley against Marlon “Chito” Vera at UFC 239 this Saturday.
Despite getting the nod from UFC matchmakers, Rodriguez will not step into the Octagon. The reason for this, Rodriguez and Butler-Au say, is a refusal to let Rodriguez out of his contract by notable regional promotion King of the Cage (KOTC).
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Rodriguez announced that he “got the call to fight for the UFC vs Chito Vera,” but that would not be able to, as “the organization I have faithfully been fighting for to build me to this point would not allow me out of my contract to fulfill this dream.”
Butler-Au in an Instagram post singled out KOTC founder and promoter, Terry Trebilcock, by name, writing, “Terry at @kingofthecage decided to block Drako from achieving this dream because he is a local draw and ticket seller under contract.”
Rodriguez wrote that he has “4 fights left on [his] deal for [KOTC] and [he] continue to do [his] part to try and reach [his] goal”, and Butler-Au said that “Drako was already in this contract when we took over managing him so we weren’t able to change it.”
Regarding the situation, Rodriguez wrote that he is “heartbroken”. The 23-year-old added that “[t]hese opportunities don’t come very often and [he] never thought [he] would have it stripped from [him] by the show that was supposed to be helping [him] to get there.”
Rodriguez, who fights out of Sioux City, Iowa, has fought for KOTC 15 times between his time in the amateur and professional ranks, including all of his pro bouts. Rodriguez compiled a 5-1 record with the promotion, winning all of his victories by finish and dropping his lone loss to a consensus top bantamweight prospect and the KOTC and CES bantamweight champion, Tony Gravely.
Butler-Au, who manages a sizable roster of fighters, wrote that he has “never seen a regional show block someone’s career/dream like this especially for the peanuts KOTC is paying [Rodriguez].”
Drako Rodriguez concluded by adding, “[t]his is so hard for me to swallow but I will continue on. Best of luck to Chito and whoever got the call to fill my spot.”
Below is Butler-Au’s Instagram post in full, which includes a screenshot of Rodriguez’s original Facebook post.
King of the Cage did not immediately respond for comment.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.