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South African league EFC rocked by non-payment scandals, won’t be sanctioned by regulator

Prominent South African MMA promotion Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) may not be able to promote its upcoming December event, South Africa’s national governing body for MMA has announced.

On Tuesday, the South African MMA Association (MMA SA) issued an open letter on the body’s Facebook page alleging that EFC has failed to pay officials and the governing entity’s sanctioning fees dating back to late 2018. As a result, the MMA SA, who derive their authority from the governing bodies of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and Martial Arts South Africa (MASA), announced that they will not sanction, or provide licensed officials for, further EFC events until a resolution has been reached.

According to the letter, the EFC has not complied with two payment arrangements with the MMA SA to settle alleged outstanding debts.

The MMA SA has provided The Body Lock with an extensive, multi-section document purporting to compile a variety of documents and screenshots pertinent to its case against EFC, including what appears to be: a letter regarding the termination of sanctioning issued by the MMA SA to EFC, “affidavits” from multiple subjects alleging non-payment by EFC, and a screenshot of a WhatsApp communication from an EFC official refusing to accept the MMA SA’s authority.

Purported letter from MMA SA to EFC on 11/1 regarding sanctioning

In what appears to be a letter from the MMA SA to EFC dated November 1 (pictured left), the governing body lists four major reasons for refusing to sanction South Africa’s largest MMA promotion.

The MMA SA alleges that EFC has not paid required sanctioning fees to the organization, nor have they paid “officials, judges, event reps, and referees” dating back to December of 2018.

Equally powerful is the claim outlined in the MMA SA’s fourth point, which alleges that “numerous complaints” have been levied from MMA fighters who have competed in EFC over non-payment issues.

According to the letter, these athletes have claimed that “outstanding fight bonuses have not been paid since 2018” and that in some instances, “only once they sign a new contract with the association will their fight bonuses be paid.”

The MMA SA told The Body Lock that EFC did not respond to this November 1 letter.

However, the MMA SA included an apparent screenshot attributed to EFC matchmaker Graeme Cartmell that would seem to indicate EFC’s awareness – and rejection – of the MMA SA’s decision to remove sanctioning for its events (pictured below, right).

In the screenshot, a message from a sender misspelled as “Greame (sic) EFC,” text that attempts to assure recipients that the MMA SA, particularly the body’s president, Bertus Coetzee, is not a threat to the promotion or its upcoming shows.

A screenshotted message attributed to Graeme Martell

The sender writes to “ignore the HELL out of” Coetzee and his letter, claiming that he and the MMA SA “[do] not sanction EFC.”

As of press time, EFC has not responded to a request for comment specifically regarding the veracity of the screenshot and the accuracy and intent behind the statements attributed to Cartmell detailed within it.

According to the MMA SA, this message was sent to “all affiliated members in the MMA SA Community.”

The MMA SA also supplied a legal letter (below) dated August 7 from an apparent supplier for EFC, Fantasea Gear Promotions CC, which is registered as a South African printing company.

A legal letter from an EFC supplier to EFC, per the MMA SA

The letter, which was authored by the South African law firm of Martini-Patlansky, sought to “demand payment” from EFC to its clients, Fantasea Gear. Fantasea Gear appears to be seeking the sum of R3,8131.70 South African rands, which translates to roughly $2,587.94 U.S. dollars, stemming from the company’s role in EFC’s February show.

While the letter cited the “good relationship” between EFC and Fantasea Gear, it stressed the severity of the situation, stating, “We have been instructed to demand payment… within 7 (seven) days of date hereof, failing which, our client has instructed us to immediately proceed to institute legal action against you.”

The MMA SA also included messages that appear to show complaints about instances of non-payment from officials related to EFC shows.

In a WhatsApp message purportedly with Pieter Swanepoel, who has worked as a cutman for EFC, the question of payment was raised in Afrikaans, an official language of South Africa.

Per a translation service, the question reads, “Good day Pieter. How many events does EFC owe you money for?” In response, Swanepoel (who is listed as “Pieter Swannepoel (sic) CUT” in the contact information seen in the screenshot) wrote, “R10 000-00,” which equates to roughly $679.73 of alleged debt. 

The MMA SA also cites an email from Robert Feynes, who described his role with EFC as “cut man and hand wrap[per].”

An email from Robert Feynes, per the MMA SA

Feynes alleges that he contacted EFC President Calvin Howarth over issues regarding non-payment for his work from the past two shows.

In response, Feynes claims that Howarth told him to “please be patient as they are having cash flow problems.”

Then, Feynes says he was paid R500 ($33.95). Feynes then says that he explored pursuing legal action, saying that he considered the payment issue “a matter of principle.”

For several weeks, there was no response from Howarth or EFC, Feynes claims. Finally, he says, after telling Howarth that he would calculate his loss of income and accrued interest with his attorneys and pursue legal action against EFC, he received a message that his last payment of R1,500 ($101.86) would be paid.

“And so it happened,” wrote Feynes.

The MMA SA told The Body Lock, “There are many more letters like these we can provide.”

As a result of the alleged payment issues listed above, the MMA SA decided to terminate sanctioning for EFC events going forward.

Without sanctioning from the MMA SA, any MMA event promoted by EFC would be considered an unsanctioned one, which could have serious consequences for those involved. According to the open letter, fighters who would choose to compete on an unsanctioned EFC event would be forced to forfeit their license to professionally compete in MMA.

For a fighter, his or her license to compete is essential to doing so. Without it, a fighter cannot compete in a sanctioned MMA bout.

EFC middleweight champion Dricus Du Plessis, who also competes in top Polish promotion Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW), took to social media to share his thoughts on the MMA SA’s verdict.

“I will not be in any way be influenced by this letter,” wrote the South African fighter, “and I would love to see them try [to] take my license as a professional fighter. Go right ahead let’s see it.”

Du Plessis hit back against claims of EFC not paying fighters, noting that in his experience, EFC “has never missed any payments to me or my team.”

Du Plessis also slammed the MMA SA’s letter as “absolute BS,” claiming that the MMA SA was simply seeking attention. He wrote, “EFC made MMA what it is tody (sic) in AFRICA… without EFC MMA in Africa is dead.”

View this post on Instagram

Absolutely BS EFC has never ever missed any payments to me or my team, also think this letter is absolute BS, EFC made MMA what it is tody in AFRICA and if @MMASA wants some attention please hire a PR person, without @efcworldwide MMA SA is as relevant as this letter, instead of jumping on this bandwagon just remember one thing, without EFC MMA in Africa is dead. So I will not be in any way be influenced by this letter, and I would love to see them try take my license as a professional fighter. Go right ahead let’s see it. To all the fans EFC 83 is 100% happening and this will be the biggest event in the history of African MMA and we will all be a part of it. See you all 14 December 👊🏼👑

A post shared by Dricus du Plessis (@dricusduplessis) on

EFC’s middleweight champion was also quick to assure fans that the December 14 event he is slated to headline, EFC 83, will, in fact, go on, claiming, “To all the fans EFC 83 is 100% happening and this will be the biggest event in the history of African MMA and we will all be a part of it. See you all [on] 14 December.”

To date, EFC has not published any update on its website or social media pages regarding the claims lofted by the MMA SA, but it has continued to promote its upcoming December card, which is set to take place at the Times Square Casino in Pretoria, South Africa.

The card, as listed on the promotion’s website, lists four main card bouts, including Du Plessis’ title unification with interim middleweight champion Brendan Lesar and a women’s flyweight title fight between champion Amanda Lino and France’s Manon Fiorot.

As of press time, it is unclear what might happen next in this precipitous situation. The revocation of sanctioning for an event, a fighter’s license, and affiliations with influential entities like the IMMAF are all very hefty punishments, and claims of non-payment of both officials and sanctioning fees are serious claims.

The MMA SA alleges that EFC has “not paid their outstanding fees to MMA SA since March of this year and Many of the officials since the end of 2018,” and according to the MMA SA, “some of these amounts to a single official close to R 30 000 ZAR ($2,037.17) – to which there are a few.”

The governing entity claims that “EFC owes many athletes that have competed on this platform thousands of rands.” In perhaps the document’s most scathing summation, the MMA SA labels EFC’s alleged behavior as morally wrong, writing that “they are profiting off the athletes and abusing the association.”

According to the MMA SA, “EFC believes they are a Law on to their own and do not have to adhere to anyone or any Association that has been put into place to regulate the sport.”

In response to a request for comment on the ongoing situation by The Body Lock, EFC matchmaker Graeme Cartmell is quoted as saying, “We will address this with MMA SA. Looking forward to an awesome event on 14 December at Time Square.”

The IMMAF, who are cited multiple times by the MMA SA, appeared to take a step back from the controversy in a statement given to The Body Lock.

“IMMAF, as a non-profit, international governing body, is not involved in national level sanctioning or regulation and has no jurisdiction to be so. IMMAF concerns itself with the setting of standards and policies, and in the education and licensing of officials. We are not a trade organisation and have no mandate to dictate where our licensed officials (judges, referees, cutman) chose to work as independent contractors. This is [a] national level trade dispute between the promoter and our member federation, MMASA, as the local regulator providing services to the promoter,” wrote IMMAF Director of Brand, Commerce, and Communications Isobel Carnwath.

If EFC plans to move forward with its December 14 event, the show’s fighters could risk the loss of their professional licenses. At any rate, the multitude of non-payment allegations that have arisen with EFC could be a crippling blow to the promotion’s reputation and further endeavors.

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