On Thursday, Paul Gift, writing for Forbes.com, reported that former UFC fighter Chris Leben is suing World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation (WBKFF). The suit alleges that the promotion has failed to pay Leben what he was promised for fighting Phil Baroni at WBKFF’s inaugural event in Casper, WY last November.
Leben alleged that WBKFF agreed to pay him a $100,000 purse for a bare knuckle fight versus his fellow UFC veteran. Leben also claimed this was a written agreement and that he was paid $10,000 up front. Since then, Leben alleged, he has not been paid the remaining $90,000 of his purse despite multiple requests.
In his lawsuit Leben named Tomasz Stankiewicz, WBKFF’s owner, as a defendant. The suit alleged Stankiewicz is guilty of fraudulent deceit and theorized that Stankiewicz “never intended to compensate” Leben.
Stankiewicz was sentenced to a year in prison last week (per MiddleEasy). That sentence stemmed from his pleading guilty to charges of wire fraud in Illinois last year. A sentencing memorandum stated that Stankiewicz orchestrated a mortgage fraud scheme that bilked the government out of approximately $2.4 million.
WBKFF’s first — and probably last — event was beset with controversy as soon as top billed fighters began pulling out of the show. Former NFL star Shawn Merriman and Bellator veteran Brennan Ward both pulled out citing contract disputes.
Ward told Bloody Elbow’s Nick Baldwin that his offer from WBKFF seemed, “too good to be true.” He also predicted that nobody on the card would end up getting paid.
Despite the high profile pull outs the event did go ahead at the Casper Events Center on November 10th. Notable fighters who featured at the event included former UFC champion Johny Hendricks (who lost to Dakota Cochrane) and UFC veterans Christina Marks, Julian Lane, and Isaac Vallie-Flagg.
In the months following the event Vallie-Flagg posted to social media claiming he too had not been paid by the promotion. Vallie-Flagg also appealed to one-time WKBFF president Bas Rutten. Rutten has since attempted to distance himself from WKBFF and Stankiewicz.
In January it was revealed that the Casper Police Department were taking note of the unpaid purses, as well as unpaid contracts to local businesses and sponsors. CPD detective Shannon Daley told K2 Radio, “We’re trying to determine if it was improper accounting, you know just they were expecting money and didn’t get it, or if the whole thing was a sham.”