For a brief period of time on Thursday night, issues between Josh Burkman and his employers at World Series of Fighting seemed untenable.
Burkman expressed his disappointment with vague issues on Twitter, asking to be released from his contract. WSOF matchmaker Ali Abdelaziz responded to Burkman via Twitter, saying the promotion had been good to Burkman and had bent over backward for him.
I can't work on going anywhere else unless #WSOF releases me. If so, we will start fresh somewhere else...— Joshua Burkman (@JoshBurkman) April 3, 2014
@MMAWorldSeries gave Josh Burkman 5 fights in 16 months, made more $ than any other fighter we have, bent over backwards for him.— Ali Abdelaziz (@AliAbdelaziz00) April 4, 2014
On Friday, World Series of Fighting executive Shawn Lampman called Bleacher Report from the promotion's Las Vegas office. On the line with Lampman were both Burkman and Abdelaziz. Over the next 20 minutes, the trio shed some light on the roots of Burkman's frustration with the promotion.
Abdelaziz told Bleacher Report that his issues with Burkman had been resolved and that Burkman would face the winner of the title fight between Rousimar Palhares vs. Jon Fitch, which takes place this summer.
Burkman confirmed the news.
"We can get into this from time to time. Especially me and Ali, because it has happened multiple times," Burkman said. "But once it's resolved, it's resolved and we move on. And I'm very happy that they made it right and that I'm next in line to fight Fitch or Palhares."
Burkman told Bleacher Report that his issues with Abdelaziz and WSOF stemmed from his recent fight with Tyler Stinson. Burkman told Abdelaziz he wanted to fight on the card, but the promotion was already over its fighter-pay budget. Burkman insisted on fighting, however, and ultimately agreed to take lower pay than what his contract called for.
But though he agreed to take the pay cut, Burkman wasn't happy. After he knocked Stinson out, Abdelaziz came in the cage.
"I love you, Ali, but I don't like you," Burkman told the matchmaker.
"That's our relationship. I don't think it's going to change. I don't think it's the last run-in we're going to have over contracts or fights," Burkman said. "But at the same time, I appreciate the person that Ali is. Some things got blown out of proportion, and I didn't want that to happen.
"I like Ali, but he's kind of a pain in my ass sometimes. Which is kinda his job, right? What happens is that there are some changes and miscommunication in contracts, and I was unhappy about it. I should have voiced how I felt about it a little bit better, maybe before I fought Tyler Stinson. But I figured the time for me to voice my opinion was after I won. I probably should have done that before the fight instead of doing it after. We didn't all see eye to eye on it, but we came to a common ground. I appreciate how this has been handled."
Burkman said he was unhappy with his treatment after coming off a loss to Steve Carl last year.
"I didn't really like how I was treated. But I think that's how it is in our sport. When you win, everything goes smoothly. But when you lose, that changes," Burkman said. "There was a little bit of miscommunication. I wasn't real happy with the way it all went down."
"World Series of Fighting is a new company. We're about to announce a very big thing, and there are a lot of moving parts," Lampman said. "There was just some lack of communication. I think Josh had a reason to be a little upset. But I talked to Josh and we figured it out."
Lampman told Bleacher Report that the promotion on Friday paid Burkman the difference in what he should have contractually received for the fight.
"When a fighter is coming off a big win, they have an expectation. And I think sometimes things get lost in the shuffle. Not intentionally. I was talking to Josh, and I completely understood how he felt. On a couple of issues, we agreed to disagree, but we resolved it," Lampman said. "I think now, as Ali said, we have the making of an epic fight. Either Fitch vs. Burkman 3, or a war with Palhares. And Josh has the tools to beat both of them. It's an honor to have him in our company and as a friend."
Abdelaziz addressed Burkman directly.
"Josh, listen, me and you are going to become best friends," Abdelaziz said. "I'm going to come down there and maybe you can choke me a couple of times."
Burkman and Abdelaziz both expressed some regret in the way the situation played out over Twitter, but both chalked it up to the often volatile nature of social media.
"I'm a very emotional guy, and I speak my mind very loud. And when I saw the tweet, I got a little bit hurt. I kinda feel bad about it, because everyone started talking about me and Josh," Abdelaziz said. "And that's what people want. They want drama. I think I should have texted him, and he should have texted me. Whatever happens, me and Josh respect each other because we always speak our mind. No regrets. That is part of life."
"I don't have any regrets. I made sure I thought about what I was going to say, and that I knew what I was getting myself into. I never said anything derogatory about Ali. I just said that, yeah, he can be a pain in the ass to deal with. I never said anything about World Series of Fighting except that I was unhappy and that, contractually, something went wrong.
"Social media is something else. You say one or two things, and then people ask you questions. And then it turned into something very big. Which is why I posted that WSOF has been mostly good to me. The people involved there are good people. So I wasn't trying to bash the WSOF in any way. I was just trying to get things fixed that I wanted to get fixed, and it has been done."
When asked by a fan on Twitter if Burkman wanted to fight the winner of Palhares vs. Fitch for the championship, the fighter responded by saying he didn't want the WSOF belt.
@bigfish042 I don't want WSOF's belt.— Joshua Burkman (@JoshBurkman) April 3, 2014
"Josh, let me ask you a question: Do you want that belt now?" Abdelaziz asked Burkman.
Burkman said he does, in fact, want the belt.
"I definitely am very competitive. I think that comes out in the way I fight and negotiate. Now? I'm very interested in the Fitch vs. Palhares fight," Burkman said. "And I'm very excited for the opportunity to fight the winner. I want to be the best in this organization, and you need the belt to do that."