Mixed Martial Artists Fight to Create Players’ Association

Key figures in the sports world want the increasingly popular mixed martial arts fighters to unionize. Launching the Professional Fighters Association is seen as the way to do that.

Ultimate Fighting Club (UFC) athletes are taking a swing at forming an association.

Not unlike organizations representing baseball, football, hockey, and basketball players, the Professional Fighters Association (PFA) will try and push the league into a collective bargaining agreement with members. Jeff Borris, a sports agent with experience representing Major League Baseball players, is spearheading the group, which formally launched August 11.

“It is the goal of the PFA to organize these hard-working athletes so that they may collectively bargain their terms and conditions of employment pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act,” the release stated. “The PFA will not only be a union of fighters, but it will be governed solely by fighters. It is the fighters who will control their own futures.”

According to PFA statistics, UFC fighters only pull in about 15 percent of the revenue generated by their matches. By comparison, professional basketball players split the proceeds with the NBA evenly, organization officials said.

“The scales have tipped in favor of the UFC for too long,” PFA said in a statement. “It is time for the fighters—the [people] responsible for the UFC’s success—to receive their equal share.”

The newly minted organization, which held a press conference in Las Vegas to announce its arrival on the stage, has the backing of Borris and several other big names in the industry.

According to an article on Yahoo! Sports, PFA will not only focus on fighters’ pay but also healthcare, minimum guarantees, pension, and disability benefits. In addition, PFA plans to have a say on the current ranking system, drug policy, and life insurance for fighters.

PFA does has an initial hurdle to clear. With the UFC labeling its fighters as “independent contractors” instead of “employees,” the fighters and PFA would need to legally challenge that status in order to officially form a union.

In addition, Ed Graney, a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and an expert on the sport, is skeptical that the group can launch without the backing of its more popular stars like Conor McGregor.

“Many have attempted to unionize UFC fighters over the years, to get them in line with other professional athletes and leagues in terms of wages and pensions, and medical insurance, and being able to collectively bargain important issues, to move them from independent contractors with absolutely no say or power in policy to employees with a voice,” Graney wrote earlier this week. “All have failed.”

Despite this, PFA officials said that they have the support of other professional sports leagues’ players’ unions.

“The other major sports players’ unions … have provided PFA with their support of the [our] quest to organize and collectively bargain their terms and conditions of employment,” officials said.

Unlike the NFL, which is a nonprofit, the UFC is a private company. While salary and revenue information is not required to be released, its most current chairman, Lorenzo Fertitta, reported the organization raked in about $600 million in 2015. Fertitta and his brother, Frank, bought the league for $2 million in 2000 and sold it in July for $4 billion.



Derrick Perkins

By Derrick Perkins

Derrick Perkins is an associate editor at Associations Now. In his career as a reporter, editor, and photographer, he has covered communities in New England and Virginia as well as the Defense Department. MORE

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