Bellator MMA founder Bjorn Rebney, whose association with that promotion ended in 2014, along with Georges St-Pierre, Donald Cerrone, Cain Velasquez, T.J. Dillashaw and Tim Kennedy are scheduled to make a significant announcement during a conference call on Wednesday.
In fact, significant is an understatement if a recent press release is to be believed. What the group is actually promising is “industry re-defining”.
Though no further or really revealing information is available about the announcement, both MMAFighting and MMAJunkie have speculated that the list of names involved suggests that this might have something to do with the establishment of a fighters union.
Talk of the need for such an organization has been widespread in recent years, especially after the world’s premier MMA promotion, the UFC, signed an exclusive apparel deal with Reebok in 2014 that would drastically reduce the amount of money it’s fighters could earn through sponsorship.
A number of the athletes listed above have been among the most vocal critics of UFC business practices and/or advocates for a union during this time.
“They treat us like employees, but they don’t give us benefits like employees,” said T.J. Dillashaw during an episode of Stud Show Radio earlier this year. “It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. We have to tell them where we’re at at all times, so USADA can show up and drug test us. But we don’t get health benefits. It’s kind of crazy that we are controlled. Any time you have to tell work where you’re at and what you’re doing, that’s considered an employee, not a contractor. They can’t tell a subcontractor what to do and when to do it. So this whole drug-testing thing is kind of crazy and the way they’re making us wear Reebok and all this stuff we have to do. They’re treating us like employees, but not giving us the benefits of an employee.”
More recently, during a media luncheon for UFC 205, ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone actually volunteered to be the figurehead of a union.
“I’ll gladly put my head on the chopping block and say I’ll be the front face of this mother f*cker,” Cerrone said(via MMAFighting). “I’ve paid my way, man. I’ve earned the right to sit here and speak. I think there’s a lot of people that are scared and not willing to step up and do it. It’s gonna take a couple of us and it needs to be done.”
“I’ll be the guy. I’m not scared. All I’m saying is we need a fighters union 1,000, million percent, especially with the new owners coming in and I think now is the time.”
“We have no direction. We have no one to stand up for the fighters’ rights. If something bad were to happen, no one backs him and it’s just him alone and everything gets washed out. We need people to stand up and fight for it.”
In the meantime, St-Pierre has been negotiating unsuccessfully with new UFC owners WME-IMG. The fighter, who retired in 2013 but is looking to make a comeback, wants a new contract which guarantees him enough extra money to cover any loss in sponsorship earnings brought about by the exclusivity of the Reebok deal.
“I’m making a lot of money now even though I’m not fighting,” St-Pierre said on a September episode of UFC Tonight(via Yahoo Sports). “And my contract is old, my contract was made before the Reebok deal. And what we ask, basically, is that if I go back to fighting, I can’t advertise with my sponsor. So I’m losing money if I go back to fight under the old term of my contract.”
Interestingly, like several other fighters involved in Wednesday’s conference call, GSP is represented by Creative Artists Agency, competitors. of WME-IMG.
We will have to wait until Wednesday to find out for sure if unionization is what this group has in mind, but all the signs certainly seem to be pointing in that direction.