Cirkunov discusses new UFC deal and how his tumultuous contract situation was resolved
After a “bumpy” couple of weeks, Misha Cirkunov is back with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and happy to be there.
“I’m just happy to be back in the world’s biggest promotion,” the Toronto-based light heavyweight told TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter on Thursday. “It was a rough couple of weeks, in terms of just re-signing and all of that, but what people don’t understand is that I am my own manager, as well. So yes, I got released, but then I got re-signed.”
The 30-year-old Cirkunov was out of contract after his first-round submission of Nikita Krylov at UFC 206 at the Air Canada Centre. In early February, UFC president Dana White confirmed his exit from the organization after Cirkunov “flaked out” during negotiations.
Cirkunov said he didn’t realize negotiations were over when White made the announcement to TSN.
“I just felt that he pulled the trigger a little bit too fast,” Cirkunov said. “I thought we were still in negotiations. I didn’t really know that everything was off the table. I thought that’s how negotiations worked - when you talk to someone you wait to hear back and so on and so on. It was a little bit kind of bumpy right in the beginning, but it’s okay. I found a way how to smooth things out and make things work out. Everything ended up being awesome.”
The Latvian-born fighter calls the dialogue “a learning experience.”
“It just took a little bit of time because of negotiations,” Cirkunov said. “But there are no hard feelings. It’s business. I was dealing with it as a manager and not as a fighter, so that’s why it took a little bit of time because it’s something that’s new to me. I didn’t really negotiate before with big leagues like UFC. It took some time, but it was under two weeks and we came to an agreement.”
Knowing his standing in the game, Cirkunov never became too fearful about his situation.
“I didn’t have a job, so that was nerve-wracking, but I was the number one unsigned prospect in mixed-martial arts at 205 pounds,” Cirkunov said. “So that was on my side and kind of keeping me excited and not too nervous.”
Cirkunov cites a good relationship with UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard as a facilitator in the new deal.
“I was talking to Mick Maynard a lot, we had a nice discussion and I really like him,” Cirkunov. “We came to a great agreement and here I am back in the mix, excited to put up some good fights this year and show what I’ve been working on. I’m always training, always working and I’m excited to be back.”
As for White, Cirkunov is happy to have a cordial relationship, but wants to keep a bit of distance.
“Being friends with Dana, one day you can be friends, but if something goes wrong, all of a sudden you’re enemies,” Cirkunov explained. “So I’d rather be, you know, not best friends, not enemies. I’d rather see him and say, ‘Hey Dana, how are you?’ but deal with Mick Maynard because Mick Maynard is the matchmaker.”
Now 4-0 in the UFC (13-2 overall), Cirkunov believes his rising profile was also helpful in securing a new deal.
“Before I used to fight in UFC, I’d win the fight and I was never even in the main page story,” Cirkunov said. “For example, ‘A bunch of Canadians did good’ and I’m just one of the names in a headline. But now I’m the headline of the story. It helped. More people knew who I was and what the situation is and it helped in terms of throwing my name out there. At the same time, I’m happy everything went the way it did. We still have a great relationship with the UFC. I have a great deal. I’m happy to be back.”
Cirkunov says that operating without an agent or manager to negotiate the new deal and doing it all on his own gave him a better appreciation of the business side of things.
“For me, it works out better,” Cirkunov said. “That way, something happens and you get fired, it’s all on me. Therefore, I can renegotiate a little bit more [aggressively]. I can do that more than a manager can for me. Because at the end of the day, if Dana White and the manager have a problem, now you’re blaming the manager. I don’t want to blame anyone. I just want to deal with it myself just like in a fight.
“At the end of the day you lose, it’s all on you. You win and it’s all on you. I just took that approach and I’m happy with the way everything played out and I’m happy to be in the world’s best promotion. I’m excited to put up some good fights, keep going and climbing the ranks and one day fight for the belt.”