UFC has 500 fighters under contract and while the big headlines are Conor McGregor earning $40 million dollars on UFC 205 most of the fighters are underpaid, getting their ass beaten, live broke and do not have basic privileges. UFC is loaded and just recently been sold for $4.2 billion dollars making it the largest purchase in sporting history.
On Wednesday five UFC veterans introduced the Mixed Martial Arts Athlete Association whose purpose according to the group statement —
“The association’s sole concentration is to fight for the rights of MMA fighters and force UFC’s ownership to dramatically alter the company’s decade-plus outrageous treatment of its athletes.”
One of the five veteran fighters is former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre who says —
“UFC without fighters is only three letters of the alphabet, It’s time for us to make our voice heard and make change happen for the best of the UFC and fighters.”
Georges St-Pierre says that UFC and not the fighters is the biggest opponent there is —
“We’re all afraid, but it’s time to join up. It’s a fight for what is right and what is wrong. We should never be afraid to stand up for our virtues.”
The five UFC veterans to lead this initiative are St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, TJ Dillashaw, Tim Kennedy and Donald Cerrone who are all calling for more money, and improved healthcare and other protections.
Most of the fighters are left alone for themselves and as St-Pierre adds —
“I know a lot of fighters want to remain anonymous, but I’m telling you guys, come see us. It’s time to stand together.”
Organizing a union was first started a few years ago but it didn’t gain any traction as these moves were seen to be desperate attempts of fighters past their prime, bitter and angry. On a side not, most unions are seen to be like that, an attempt by the company to squash it. An anti-trust lawsuit was filed in 2014 by a number of UFC veterans but again it didn’t progress much.
The UFC was still a growing entity and being a private company its financials and how it paid its fighters were never highlighted until the Fertitta family sold it for 4.2 billion dollars to the WME/IMG group that eyes started rolling.
What makes fighters angry is that UFC is making a lot of money and in 2015 they made $600 million dollars in revenue and 2/3 of that came from fights. UFC was pressured by media to disclose how much they were paying their fighters and the executives gave a general sports answer that is was industry standard like any major American sports like baseball, basketball and football. Contrary to earlier statements by Fertitta that they were giving half to figthers as told to ESPN in 2012; though it is believed they were only paying around 15% of their revenue to the sweat and blood of its fighters.
When the MMAAA was introduced on Wednesday, former Bellator president Bjorn Rebney was there and commented — “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”.
Aside from the 501c6 status, the structure of the MMAAA is still not clear and more information like investors, board members, will be learned.
The association wants the UFC to negotiate with them ideally before the UFC’s media rights are up for renewal in 2018 where they are being paid $115 million dollars annually. The UFC organization is pushing for $4.5 billion dollars over 10 years as per reported by the Sports Business Journal.
The success of the MMAAA will depend on the determination and patience of its founding members as this could take time to take off the ground. This process might be long but it will only benefit the fighters of the sport and could only help in developing talent.