UFC 259 was a memorable card to start off the early portion of 2021. Unexpectedly, the longest-lasting talking point may have occurred outside the Octagon.
Following his triumphant return to the win column, Dominick Cruz used his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan to make a callout. However, rather than setting his sights on a fellow bantamweight contender, he locked onto Monster Energy representative Hans Molenkamp.
The former two-time UFC champion went on to claim that Molenkamp has been utilizing his position to obtain clout through fighter sponsorships. Furthermore, Cruz ended his callout by challenging Molenkamp to a charity match as “The Dominator” believes Molenkamp likes to think of himself as a fighter, too. The Monster employee had one professional Muay Thai bout in January 2020 in which he won.
Throughout the week, a few notable names such as Michael Bisping and Cruz’s teammate, Angela Hill, have shown their support for Cruz’s words.
“When he said that, I think a lot of people in the Mixed Martial Arts community that have had to deal with this guy’s BS cheered and celebrated,” Bisping said on the Believe You Me podcast. “So Dominick Cruz, thank you for that.”
Exactly a week after Cruz’s victory and light shedding onto Molenkamp, another voice has spoken out.
Saturday, San Diego-based MMA photographer Courtney Henderson (often referred to as Courtney Hendo) uploaded a video to his YouTube channel sharing his experience with Molenkamp. The video titled “The Untold Truth: Exposing Hans Molenkamp” was 17 minutes long and heard Hendo label Molenkamp as an entrepreneur as well as a subcontractor for Monster – not actually making him an employee despite his role as “Director of Combat Sports.”
Hendo originally began working in MMA around Cruz’s team, Alliance MMA, when he met Hans Molenkamp who liked his work enough that he was brought on board to shoot for Monster. Noting the importance of sponsorships, an area Molenkamp is largely in control of, Hendo made it a point to say they give a solid baseline of money for fighters – which is why Molenkamp’s involvement is worth speaking out about.
“He has supporters, but you’ve got to understand the way he markets himself,” Hendo said. “What he does is – if you look online at his social media page, or Instagram page, it seems like he’s the cool guy. He’s the fun guy, he’s around all these elite fighters. But behind the scenes, these guys are forced to interact with him. They’re forced to do all the antics, have the Monster can be kicked out of their hand, and do all this stupid stuff, these crazy funny videos.
“But if they don’t do that, then what will happen is they’ll lose their contract. They’re pretty much held hostage. And that was the same thing with me. I had to do what he told me to do. I had to cater to all his side businesses, I had to do everything he told me to do. If not, I lose my job with Monster. And at the time, I was making a lot of money with Monster. For a photographer, making the amount of money I was making was unheard of.”
Hired to work for Monster originally, Hendo shared that it became him working for Molenkamp more as a personal videographer. Having built his lifestyle on that income provided, he was stuck in a position that left him feeling like a hostage.
Hendo went on to insist that 99.9 percent of those in the industry have known what’s going on behind the scenes prior to Cruz’s post-fight speech. The problem has just been that the people under contracts are making so much money that they need – similar to how he was – that they can’t come forward.
In a counter-effort, Hendo expects people and other fighters to be forced to speak good about Molenkamp and likely even come after him – something that he’ll understand.
“Everything you see is a facade, it’s fake,” Hendo said. “I quit my career to shoot the best [athletes] in the world, all of a sudden, I’m shooting Hans all day. I’m getting paid by Monster but I’m not really doing Monster work that I’m hired for. I’m creating content for Hans. So that’s ultimately one of the reasons why I quit – other than the way he treated me. Like how he treated all the other fighters. He acts like you’re shit, he would treat you like you’re nothing. So the way he talked to me in public, around other fighters, other people, he was talking to me like I was a kid.
“What the last straw was for me, I was at my nephew’s football game then Hans called me that day. He said, ‘I need you to come to LA today.’ This was on a Saturday, no prior like, ‘Hey, man. Tomorrow we’re going to LA,’ nothing. It was like, when he calls, you gotta stop everything you’re doing. Even these fighters. When he calls, you stop everything you’re doing, I don’t care what you’re doing, I don’t care if you’re at your wedding. You gotta stop what you’re doing and tend to Hans.
“So I told him I couldn’t,” Hendo continued. “Then he said, ‘When I tell you to do something you do it.’ I’m a 36-year-old man. That was it, I quit. And what happened was, when I quit Monster he told all the other fighters and gyms, the whole industry, ‘Alright, if you do business with Courtney then you lose your contract.’ So ultimately, I couldn’t work in MMA anymore. I was blackballed. I damn-near went homeless and that’s the truth. I couldn’t make money in the sport – the field I built my career on. But I was blessed enough to save some money on the side to open up my studio and it took me two years to get this thing going and I had to sleep on the floor until I got this thing up.”
A week before UFC 259 took place the UFC signed a new exclusive three-year deal that keeps Monster Energy as the official energy drink – and now water – of the promotion. But not just domestically – the deal now reaches across the globe with the exception of Brazil.
According to MMA Fighting, since Cruz’s callout, Hans Molenkamp has disconnected his longtime phone number and yet to make any public response to the allegations. In addition, Monster Energy has shared that they’re “looking into” the situation. Hendo noted that this isn’t the first time there has been an internal investigation, this is just the first time someone has gone as public with claims as Cruz did.
“The whole market is controlled by one person,” Hendo said of the combat sports landscape. “The director of Monster Energy for Combat Sports, Hans Molenkamp. He manages that whole sector so he has control over the whole industry plus the fighters. Essentially, this money is so powerful that he has control over everybody. He dictates what’s going on in the industry.”