On Wednesday five UFC veterans have taken the first serious step to challenge the UFC and make lives better for its fighters by creating the fighters union Mixed Martial Arts Athlete Association (MMAAA).
When MMAAA was introduced Bjorn Rebney former President of Bellator was present with these comments — “What the association is going to achieve for the athletes is a settlement to address the past wrongs, driving up [the revenue split] to 50% up from 8%, and a benefits package that provides a safety net”.
This is a complete turnaround for Bjorn Rebney since he did not embody fighters welfare during this tenure as president of Bellator, he had a reputation for creating long-term contracts more punishing and restrictive than UFC.
Manager Jason Genet has this comments about Bjorn — “Bjorn created the most egregious working conditions ever to exist in combat sports. He forced fighters to sign with managers that would not question those contracts and punished those that did. He may be the most qualified to rid the sport of injustices that people like him ushered in or he will be the reason this fails. I will wait and see. None of my athletes will be involved.”
Not everyone is convinced of Rebney’s intention as former two division UFC champion Randy Couture said that Rebney’s motives are worth exploring. Couture has this comments — “I suspect that Bjorn is interested in creating an organization and being a promoter again and doing it with fighters, owned by fighters, sort of like what the Professional Bull Riders is. That’s my take on why Bjorn is involved here. It’s certainly more than just an advisor to fighters.”
Note that four of the five fighters leading this union are associated with Creative Artists Agency, a rival to WME/IMG who owns UFC. Is it possible that another group is going to be formed to compete against UFC. A group which already advocates fighter welfare, would split profits, provide healthcare is a big draw to get UFC fighters to move over or fighters to sign-up. Bjorn Rebney however denied these conspiracy theory and says they are all for the welfare of fighters.
Bjorn with his experience against the welfare of fighters would have a wealth of knowledge how the UFC organization is thinking and could be beneficial in negotiating terms with UFC and the success of MMAAA. It could also work against the success of MMAAA depending on the motive of Bjorn joining the union.
However this plays out our only concern is that fighters will be treated fairly and be given what is right for them.