Blackzilians owner Glenn Robinson isn’t going to let coach Henri Hooft walk away without a fight.
JACO Hybrid Training Center LLC, the gym owned by Robinson, seeks an injunction against Hooft, alleging he is violating a non-compete agreement by guiding fighters who defected from the Blackzilians’ home gym to a new facility, Combat Club.
The order, obtained by MMAjunkie, was filed June 14 in Broward County, Fla. It contains Hooft’s agreement with JACO, signed Dec. 22, 2013, which represents the coach as a trusted advisor to the company with access to proprietary and confidential information. It contains a non-compete clause that bars Hooft from training and coaching fighters elsewhere for two years after the termination of the business relationship. A non-solicitation clause restricts him from attempting to recruit any fighters to another facility for three years.
A list attached to the order highlights several well known UFC veterans – including now-retired Anthony Johnson, Michael Johnson and Kamaru Usman – JACO alleges Hooft is providing management and training services at Combat Club, which resides in Lantana, Fla., about 30 miles from JACO’s facility in Pompano.
“Based on Hooft’s continuing breach and violation of the restrictive covenant portion of the agreement, JACO is likely to suffer irreparable injury … and the public interest is served by the issuance of an injunction,” states the order.
In a response filed Aug. 21, Hooft, through his attorney, claims he never received any confidential information not available to others in the industry. Further, he claims the gym first breached their agreement by not paying his fees, leading to an excess of $10,000 in unpaid wages. He also claims JACO is no longer in operation, and there’s no legitimate business reason to keep the coach from training at another facility.
Robinson did not immediately respond to a request for comment; Hooft declined comment, citing pending litigation.
The Blackzilians, once a powerhouse MMA team, went south in 2016 after Robinson suffered a litany of health and business problems with his other company, Iron Bridge Tools, which filed for bankruptcy protection.
In a previous interview with MMAjunkie, Robinson addressed the team’s troubles head on after former Blackzilians team member Rashad Evans said the gym’s drama was “worse than 10 high schools put together.” He claimed Hooft began training fighters at a new facility after he accepted a buyout offer on the Blackzilians’ original gym. A new employment agreement didn’t come to fruition, and soon fighters began to defect.
“I believe he already knew what his plan was,” Robinson said. “Five weeks ago, I knew we weren’t going to come to terms. So I needed to let the dust settle before I went and lost a bunch of money.”
Robinson said he would continue the Blackzilians without Hooft and other key players, but would also change the way he did business.
Rumors of the team’s collapse surfaced in December 2015 when a report claimed Robinson was liquidating assets, including apparel company Jaco and Iron Bridge Tools, to pay fees owed to coaches on the Blackzilians team.
Robinson sternly denied the report and said he was only considering the sale of apparel brand JACO. He admitted business conditions had become more difficult under the UFC’s apparel deal with Reebok and also claimed he’d suffered health issues that left him ill for 90 days.
Hooft then defended Robinson and the team’s health.
“I’m the busiest coach, and I got paid every time, on time,” Hooft told MMAjunkie. “If I wasn’t paid on time, I wouldn’t cry to the press. I would just go to Glenn and say, ‘Give me my money.’”
Now it appears Robinson is trying to keep Hooft from making his elsewhere.
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