Recently, MMA clothing company and fighter sponsor Tri-Coasta parted ways with UFC featherweight Chan Sung Jung, better known as “The Korean Zombie.”

Fighters and sponsors part ways frequently, without most even noticing. However, in this case, Jung’s translator, Brian Rhee, opted to publicly call out Tri-Coasta through social media and MMA forums. Rhee claimed that the company had been “screwing the fighter for over a year” and Jung is owed contractually agreed-upon money.

There are two sides to every story; so, rather than wait for Rhee to continue his public assault, Tri-Coasta’s owner, Michelle Lee, spoke with The MMA Corner about the situation.

“After I purchased the company last year, Chan Sung Jung signed a contract to promote and market Tri-Coasta under a one-year, salaried sponsorship agreement,” Lee confirmed. “As part of the agreement, there were obligations for marketing the brand.”

The contractual obligations included wearing Tri-Coasta shirts, as well as taking part in photo shoots, social media interaction and media requests. According to Lee, all were ignored by the fighter and his management.

“We repeatedly expressed our concern that he was doing nothing to keep his end of the contract,” explained Lee. “After numerous months of requesting photo shoots, social media mentions and just some form as recognition as a sponsor, we could no longer continue to pay a fighter who refused to acknowledge his sole apparel sponsor.”

Lee provided a list of reasons that reveal how the fighter failed to meet contractual obligations and had in fact breached the contract. This ultimately led to Tri-Coasta stopping payments to the fighter late last year.

“While Chan Sung did wear the Korean Zombie shirt for the first few weeks and a few times after that, the majority of the agreement was not fulfilled by him,” Lee declared.  “Here are just a few of his contractual obligations that were not fulfilled and breaches of the agreement:”

  • Only a few months into the sponsorship, Chan Sung breached our contract by working for Kimurawear. The agreement clearly states that he will not endorse any other competing brand’s products.
  • We provided him with shirts to sell for his own gain – at no profit to us. When asked if the shirts were sold, we were told he didn’t have them anymore – but were not sold.
  • We asked Chan Sung for pictures wearing our products, interviews with media and social media interaction with his fans. Our requests were ignored; even when we offered to arrange photo shoots for him. Over the course of the contract, we received a total of three pictures, downloaded from the internet at low resolution and taken during his WEC days and prior.

“Most people love the shirt and think it’s a gold mine. In fact, sales of the shirts on the Tri-Coasta website weren’t ever enough to pay his salary,” revealed Lee. “His greatest shirt sales came during the first year of his WEC career in which Tri-Coasta was owned by someone else. His salary, while undeserved, was paid and well over 10 times the amount of his royalties due. But, due to the breach in contract, Tri-Coasta ceased payments and does not owe the fighter further compensation.”

Rhee cited the company’s sponsorship of other fighters in his public tirade, but Lee pointed out that the two situations are unrelated.

“Brian Rhee, Chan Sung’s translator – not manager as he advertises – stated that Chan Sung was extremely angry that we sponsored other fighters while owing him money. We continued to pay him even after he continually breached the contract. Tri-Coasta is extremely proud to have sponsored some amazing fighters and companies who promote us even when they aren’t on a salary.”

Not wanting to only take Lee’s word on the situation, The MMA Corner reached out to a number of fighters that have been sponsored by Tri-Coasta over the past year. Each fighter’s response painted a clear picture of the company.

“Tri-Coasta goes above and beyond and always support their fighters,” declared Ultimate Fighter season 11 alumni Joseph Henle.

“I feel lucky to have Tri-Coasta as a sponsor. I wish I had them earlier in my fighting career,” admitted UFC veteran Mike Guymon.

A former Tri-Coasta sponsored fighter, recent Ultimate Fighter: Live combatant James Krause, described his relationship with the company, “They kept in constant communication with me, showed support through social media and always came through with everything they promised.”

And it wasn’t just former UFC fighters that echoed the sentiment.

“As a professional fighter building a career outside of major organizations, Tri-Coasta has been amazing to work with,” said featherweight Nick Macias. “They are one of a surprisingly small number of companies supporting up-and-coming fighters that do what they say they’re going to.”

Although it is likely there will be more details of the situation revealed in the coming weeks – as Rhee suggested – Lee wanted to point out the reality of it.

“We tried our best to maintain this agreement for as long as we could, but unfortunately it was completely one-sided,” stated Lee. “This situation is nothing more than a fighter who felt he had no responsibility to do any work to receive a paycheck.”

UPDATE: It should be noted that Brian Rhee opted to state his case publicly via Twitter, Facebook and the forums of both Sherdog and the UG. The MMA Corner has offered Rhee a chance to respond with more insight on his side of the story, but thus far he has only stated “Our response to this will be coming soon! We were expecting her to say all that nonsense.” via Facebook

UPDATE No. 2: After further conversation with Brian Rhee, he has chosen to respond to Tri-Coasta’s statements through another outlet.

Photo: Chan Sung Jung (L) wearing his Tri-Coasta “Korean Zombie” shirt (Facebook)

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