Upstart MMA promotion ARES Fighting Championship recently announced the signing of former multi-title boxing champion Hassan N’Dam ahead of his expected MMA debut, which is as yet unannounced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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In a video memorializing the signing, images of what appeared to be N’Dam’s promotional agreement, or contract, provided to an extent an insight into what ARES pays its fighters.
The Body Lock captured these images from the video, and upon further inspection, the contract appears to show a tiered pay structure over the course of the deal’s length, with potential bonuses awarded to N’Dam if he meets certain criteria.
The visible portion of the contract’s beginnings defines ARES as the “promoter,” N’Dam as the “fighter,” and cites the date of the contract’s signing as May 29. The video containing the contract was uploaded on June 8.
N’Dam, a 36-year-old French-Cameroonian boxer who once captured WBO and WBA titles across the middleweight and super-middleweight divisions, will be with ARES for at least eighteen months, according to the agreement. The contract’s “Special Terms” section defines the length of the deal as “4 fights or a maximum of 18 months,” noting that the contract would end at “whichever ends first.”
Below the special terms – the second of which explained that N’Dam would be paid his purse and potential bonuses, should he earn such bonuses – was a table of tiered payments reflecting N’Dam’s base purse for his debut in ARES and increasing purses for subsequent “Levels” of compensation.
The table indicated that N’Dam’s purse in his first fight would be $20,000 base pay, and, interestingly, there would be a $20,000 bonus for N’Dam – the amount of his original purse – provided that he was able to secure a knockout or submission.
MMA promotions are often known to offer fighters “win bonuses,” additional revenues usually in the same amount as a fighter’s base pay, that a fighter earns should they win his or her fight. ARES FC appears to have taken the idea a step further.
Each of N’Dam’s contracted purses features a “Finish Bonus” option, intended to reward the fighter for performances in which he stops his opponent.
The concept of a finish bonus is not a unique one, but to use the finish bonus as a replacement to the standard “win bonus,” with such a significant amount of money relative to the fighter’s base pay, is notable.
Following his ARES debut, in which the contract provides for $20,000 base pay with an additional $20,000 available in the event of a stoppage victory, N’Dam’s base compensation and finish bonus will both increase by $2,000 to $22,000/$22,000 in his second “Level” of remuneration.
At the bottom of the table, the contract stipulates that N’Dam can only graduate to Level 2 and subsequent levels of compensation under certain circumstances.
“To access the next level of remuneration, the Fighter has to win, win by KO or Submission, or get the Offensive of the Night Bonus at one Bout,” the contract reads, keeping N’Dam in the Level 1 ($20,000/$20,000) bracket unless he wins a bout or wins the “Offensive of the Night” bonus.
In his third level – reachable after two victories, two Offensive of the Night bonuses, or a combination of the two – N’Dam’s pay will increase by an additional $3,000 to $25,000/$25,000, a $5,000 – thus a combined potential $10,000 – increase from his debut purse and bonus.
For N’Dam’s fourth and final level of compensation in the agreement, the boxer will earn a base pay of $30,000 with a potential finish bonus of $30,000, a full $10,000 increase in both base pay and finish bonus from his debut fight.
As the table indicates, N’Dam will receive his base pay regardless of a win or loss. He may earn his finish bonus in one of two ways: N’Dam can win a fight by knockout or submission, or N’Dam could lose his bout – obviously, not earning a finish – and still receive his ‘finish bonus’ should he earn the “Offensive of the Night.”
There has been no public mention of an “Offensive of the Night” bonus from ARES in the promotion’s short history, though it appears likely that such a bonus would resemble that of a “Performance of the Night” bonus, as seen in promotions like the UFC, which awards two fighters $50,000 bonuses based on their efforts – as well as $50,000 nods to two “Fight of the Night” winners.
After their first event, however, ARES did issue bonuses. Leading up to ARES FC 1, which took place in December of 2019, ARES advertised a “10.000$ “Fight of the Night” Bonus,” on Twitter and revealed that two fighters (Sengalese wrestler Oumar “Reug Reug” Kane and Bellator veteran Gregory Babene, who each faced different opponents at ARES FC 1) each received $10,000 performance bonuses.
Reug Reug earned a so-called “Performance of the Night” bonus while Babene won the prize for the “Submission of the Night BONUS,” according to multiple Tweets from the promotion. The Body Lock could not find mention of a Fight of the Night winner after ARES 1 on the promotion’s Twitter or Facebook. Reug Reug’s and Babene’s bonuses appear to be the only performance bonuses issued by ARES.
More insight from the N’Dam contract
In addition to N’Dam’s tiered pay structure and the listed amounts within, the video also revealed aspects of the contract that provide further insight into ARES’ operations.
Though ARES is a company under the umbrella of French mass media giant Vivendi, which is based in Paris, France, the MMA promotion states in its contract with N’Dam that its contract and any disputes or claims would be dealt with under Senegalese law.
“This Agreement and any dispute arising out of or in connection… [illegible]… (including non-contractual disputes or claims) shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with the Laws of Senegal.”
ARES’ search engine optimization (SEO) description for its website writes that the promotion is “Based in Dakar, Senegal,” the site of its first and only event.
The agreement also states that ARES must pay N’Dam within ten days of his fight. Except, it appears, in the case of a drug test failure.
“[The] PROMOTER shall pay Fighter’s Purse and any applicable Finish Bonus to Fighter within ten (10) days of the completion of each bout, except that if a Fighter tests positive for any Controlled Substances in a pre-fight [illegible],” states the contract, appearing to continue onto the next page, which is not shown in the video.
It is unclear whether ARES maintains a drug-testing program, and there has been no public mention of a drug-testing program by the promotion.
ARES’ lofty ambitions and Vivendi’s backing
ARES has of yet promoted just one event, a nine-fight show in Dakar, Senegal. The event, which was streamed live on UFC Fight Pass, was well-received by fans and media alike, even despite the cancelation of several fights at the last minute due to humidity in the outdoor arena making the cage unsafe.
Although the promotion is just getting started, ARES FC has lofty aspirations. ARES FC Executive Sporting Director Fernand Lopez – who also serves as the coach of Factory MMA and a manager to fighters in the UFC and beyond – told BJPenn.com that the promotion is aiming to stand shoulder to shoulder with the UFC.
“We’re going to try and build our own exclusive roster, we have the money to sign anyone. In a few months, we’ll be bigger than Bellator and ONE Championship,” said Lopez, who noted that ARES maintains so-called ‘UFC out’ clauses in their contracts, which provide fighters with the ability to leave ARES for the UFC if offered a fight.
“We made a deal with the UFC, as well,” revealed Lopez. “They will sign our best athletes. They do believe in this project. I think we are the first-ever promotion debuting on UFC Fight Pass on our very first event.”
ARES FC was founded under the Vivendi umbrella, a major French media conglomerate. Forbes estimates Vivendi’s market cap at $25.4 billion and lists the company 363rd on its “Global 2000 2020” list of the world’s largest public companies.
In a February press release heralding ARES’ streaming deal with UFC Fight Pass, Vivendi’s sporting division, Vivendi Sports, stated, “ARES Fighting Championship is a professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) league created by Vivendi Sports, organizer of sports competitions. Present in Africa and in Europe, ARES Fighting Championship [has] ambitions to become a leading MMA organization in these territories. ARES FC’s mission is also to offer a platform to talented young African fighters, giving them a chance to compete at [an] international level.”
In April, Lopez said of Vivendi in an interview with Archyde.com, “This is mainly the story of Vivendi Sports. Vivendi is a behemoth of media and communication. It has within it a branch called Vivendi Sports. One of the directors of Vivendi Sports is the chairman [emphasis Archyde’s or Lopez’s] of ARES FC. It’s Robins Tchale-Watchou who was the president of Provale, the rugby union. He is the head of ARES… Robins Tchale-Watchou had this project. Vivendi then called upon me for the sporting direction and the sports orientation of the league.”
Lopez concluded, “We want to become, in the medium term, the second world league after the UFC.”
Vivendi Sports is housed under the umbrella of Vivendi Village, a wide range of Vivendi subsidiaries, which also include See Tickets, L’Olympia, and Olympia Productions – a potential horizontal integration of the MMA business.
Vivendi’s 2019 annual financial report shows that while revenues overall were up for Vivendi Village, their earnings before interest, tex, and amortization (EBITA) losses increased to 17 million Euro (roughly $19,190,000 USD) compared to a 9 million Euro ($10,156,770 USD) loss in 2018.
In the filings, Vivendi notes that the increase in overall losses in the division is mostly a result of investments of new CanalOlympia venues in Africa, with EBITA being near break-even otherwise. In their first-quarter financial filings, Vivendi stated in its attached notes that it expects revenues from Vivendi Village to be heavily impacted in their second quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the organization is confident in its core businesses.
Vivendi’s largest revenue source, Universal Music Group – one of the “Big Three” music record labels that houses big-name music artists, such as Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, and Eminem – is not expected to be significantly affected by the pandemic.
ARES has been quick to sign notable names in the MMA world, adding a slew of ex-UFC and ex-Bellator fighters to its burgeoning roster, as well as non-MMA combat sport standouts like N’Dam and Reug Reug.
The promotion has signed the likes of Nordine Taleb, Eric Shelton, PFL tournament contender Chris Curtis, Taylor and Damien Lapilus, John Moraga, and Juan Adams, among others.
Adams, a Dana White’s Contender Series and UFC veteran, made waves recently when he claimed that under his new contract with ARES, he was actually set to earn more than he did with the UFC. The heavyweight prospect was making a disclosed $12,000 base purse in the UFC, with a win bonus of an additional $12,000 in each fight.
According to disclosed payouts, Adams made $3,500 per fight in accordance with the UFC’s Reebok apparel sponsorship deal, as Adams’ first three UFC fights placed him in Tier 1 of Reebok’s ‘compliance pay’ payouts. For his last UFC bout – his fourth with the promotion – Adams earned $4,000 from Reebok after entering Tier 2 (4-5 UFC fights).
Speaking to BJPenn.com in March, Adams stated, “My base salary [in ARES FC] is actually more than what I was making with the UFC. The sponsorship also plays a huge part of it. I’ve had two or three huge companies reach out for sponsorships. I’m really looking to cement my sponsors in the next two or three months.”
In April, Adams again told MMAJunkie, “They’re paying me more than what the UFC was.”
The specifics of Adams’ ARES deal are as of yet unknown, but N’Dam’s deal allows a degree of insight into how much the promotion has been able to offer fighters. With the backing of Vivendi Sports and Vivendi, it appears as though ARES FC has the potential to become a major player in the sport.
ARES FC officials did not immediately respond to The Body Lock’s request for comment on these matters.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.
Patrick is a consultant turned journalist who loves the fight game and everything to do with it. Focusing on the politics, business, and general state of MMA are his mainstays, though he'll dabble in analysis and best bets when he can. He also enjoys football, basketball, baseball, and great jokes in general so feel free to reach out and berate him on social media whenever you disagree with him.