MMA Fighters Form Association to Take on the UFC
A group of mixed martial artists have banded together in a new association to fight a bigger opponent, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, for better pay and benefits.
Five big names in mixed martial arts have launched the sport’s latest group aimed at addressing revenue discrepancies and protections for fighters: the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association.
“We’re here today to take a stand and also fight for all the fighters who have those same problems,” said Georges St-Pierre, former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight champion and organization head, on a conference call introducing MMAAA. “Fighters who got bullied and intimidated. Fighters who are afraid to retire or get fired, left broken with brain injuries, physical trauma with no insurance and care.”
St-Pierre founded MMAAA along with fellow UFC Champions Cain Velasquez and TJ Dillashaw and fighters Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Tim Kennedy. All five will serve on the group’s board, while Bjorn Rebney, founder and former president of UFC-competitor Bellator, will have an advisory role.
“Don’t forget, the UFC without fighters, it’s only three letters of the alphabet,” said St-Pierre, who is currently in stalled contract negotiations with the UFC. “It’s time to make our voice heard and make change happen, for the best of the UFC and for the fighters.”
Specifically, MMAAA will seek to increase UFC fighters’ share of revenue from 8 to 50 percent, negotiate a collective bargaining agreement and benefits package that reflect other major sports leagues, and reach a settlement to compensate past and present fighters for lost income.
“No man left behind resonates with me permanently. I would’ve assumed that if the UFC reached the level of success that it has, that the fighters wouldn’t have been left behind. You wouldn’t have guys that can barely walk and there’s nothing that can be done for them,” said Kennedy. “That’s why we’re here today. We’re here to never leave somebody behind. We’re here to take every step necessary to make sure no athlete, no fighter in the UFC gets left behind.”
The new group will not apply for union designation, however, because it would be difficult to win as fighters are considered independent contractors. And while these five fighters are inviting others to join, they understand others’ reluctance for fear of retaliation from the UFC.
“Years ago if you asked me to speak I wouldn’t have out of fear that the UFC would’ve benched me or fired me,” Cerrone said. “There’s still fear. But it needs to be done. Standing with the five guys here, we’re big names, man. We just need to get the rest of the guys to step up with us.”
Responding to the announcement, a UFC official told MMAFighting.com, “We respect all of our athletes and are always open and willing to hear their thoughts on how to improve the sport.”
MMAAA joins the lineup of other groups seeking to organize MMA fighters, including the Professional Fighters Association, which hopes to become a union, and the MMA Fighters Association that is working to bring the boxing protection Ali Act to MMA.
Georges St-Pierre, the founder of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association, shown in 2008 during his UFC days. (Pixeloflight/Flickr)