Anthony Birchak says he’s a free agent, has received offer from Combate Americas

The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale in July may have been the last time Anthony Birchak steps inside the Octagon to compete.

His fight against Dileno Lopes, which he won by split decision, was the last fight on his UFC contract, Birchak told

Birchak didn’t purposely fight out his contract. The organization just never reached out to him before the Lopes fight to begin negotiations for a new deal, which is what it usually does when fighters have one fight left on their contracts.

“It just kind of happened,” he said. “I knew this was the last fight on my contract. When I signed the bout agreement, I figured they were probably going to wait and see whether I won.”

After his win, all Birchak could do was wait for a call from the UFC. He expected to be re-signed, particularly because he got back into the winning column. But he’s had limited contact with the organization since July. The UFC has continuously put off negotiating with him, the 30-year-old said. His manager briefly talked to matchmaker Sean Shelby, who said the company was willing to re-sign Birchak in 2017. Birchak has texted Shelby asking to be placed on the upcoming card in Phoenix, only to receive no reply.

“A couple of sports agents were telling me, ‘When they send you the bonus check, they’ll probably send you a new contract.’ And it just never came. I’m really bummed. It’s just been kind of a limbo area for me.

“I’m just kind of sitting here twiddling my thumbs wondering why I’m not on UFC Phoenix or why I can’t get a fight coming up anywhere near my anywhere,” he said. “It’s kind of frustrating.”

The UFC was bought by talent agency WME-IMG in July. Birchak believes the major transition period is causing the company not to prioritize immediately re-signing its fighters with expired contracts.

“What I think messed all that up was the new ownership,” he said. “They might’ve not been able to do things like they’ve been doing things.”

Birchak wants to still fight for the UFC. But he admitted that he feels forced to compete elsewhere, because the UFC has not shown any interest in the past five months in re-signing him.

“When you’re a little boy, playing baseball on the baseball diamond, you dream about going to the major leagues; you dream about the MLB. And that’s where I’m at. I want to be part of the UFC,” he said. “But if the UFC is, at this point, only going to fight me once a year, it’s hard to support a household of six on one fight a year. I can’t do it.

“At this point, it’s making it just a sheer numbers game and putting stuff on paper, saying, ‘OK, this is obviously the better deal.’”

The fact that Birchak has a “juicy” deal in front of him is making it easier to consider signing with a different organization, he said. At the beginning of this month, a few weeks after his exclusive negotiation period — the time-frame in which Birchak was allowed to only negotiate with Zuffa — expired, Birchak received a joint offer from Combate Americas and Rizin FF.

Should he sign the deal, which, he said, seems to be a likely possibility, Combate Americas would be his home base. To add onto that, he would be given opportunities to represent Combate Americas at Rizin FF events in Japan, similar to Bellator MMA’s Muhammed Lawal, for example, last year.

There are several reasons Birchak thinks the deal is “appealing.” Firstly, money-wise, the offer is just as good as his last UFC contract. A handful of his current sponsors have already said that they are willing to increase his sponsorship rate and re-sign a deal should he sign with Combate Americas. He’s also been guaranteed three fights per year, he said, which is quite a bit more than what he’s had in the UFC since his 2014 debut.

He could also fight for the Combate Americas bantamweight title immediately, which is a bonus. And finally, fighting under both organizations would also allow him to expand his brand in new markets — Central and South America, Mexico, as well as Asia — which is something he’s very interested in doing.

Outside the cage, he would have commentating opportunities at Combate Americas events, as he speaks both English and Spanish.

“It’s not only a good fighting deal; it’s a good business deal,” he said.

“I’ve been talking about it with my family, and this looks like this is going to be the most beneficial for what we’re doing right now. I only fought once in 2016, I fought twice in 2015, and I only fought once in 2014. It’s really hard to make ends meet when you’re fighting off of one fight a year. The bills come heavy, especially when you’re in fight camp.

“I’m really looking forward to being treated like an elite athlete should, and that’s exactly what Combate Americas has been talking to me about.”

Should he sign with Combate Americas, he would most likely fight at its next event, which will mark the organization’s debut in Mexico City, on Jan. 19. He already has an opponent lined up — despite the fact that he has yet to sign the dotted line at this time — for that card. Birchak did not reveal who his targeted opponent is.

Birchak isn’t penciled in for an upcoming Rizin FF card. He doesn’t know exactly when his debut for the Japan-based organization will take place. It won’t be on New Year’s Eve, but instead most likely sometime next year.

Unless the UFC calls him before then, Birchak plans on signing the joint deal with Combate Americas and Rizin FF by the first week of December.

“My coach is out in Melbourne, Australia right now with one of my teammates, so I really want to wait until he gets back,” he said. “I’m waiting to get past this holiday, and we can really sit down and look at what’s really good for business.

“I think that’s more than fair. At that point, I don’t even send a ‘Hey, I signed with another organization’ text message. If I get texted or called (by the UFC after I sign the new deal), it’s just too little, too late.”