The UFC’s deal with Reebok has brought greater attention than ever to the matter of fighter’s rights.
The structure of the Mixed Martial Art’s landscape is one that greatly benefits the fans. The UFC’s near monopoly status in the market place means that they have the power to ensure that the best fights take place in the vast majority of cases. It is a refreshing contrast with the world of boxing, where the fragmented nature of the sport lends itself to frustrating and drawn out political games that often hamper the biggest bouts.
Unfortunately, in this situation what is good for the fans is often bad for the fighters.
In recent months a spotlight has been shone on the UFC’s business dealings, pay scales and treatment of talent. It came about as a result of the company’s agreement with Reebok, an exclusive sponsorship deal which was signed to the financial detriment of many members of the roster. In the aftermath of this signing there have been indications that fighter opinion’s on the matter have been censored, a theory that was solidified by the firing of cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran after he spoke out against the new deal.
Dana White rules with an iron fist.
It has also brought greater attention to the paltry purses earned by many UFC contracted fighter’s. With athletes now unable to negotiate independent sponsorship deals, the way they could previous to the Reebok era, these meager salaries appear more worrisome than ever.
It is from this climate that a new attempt to unionize UFC fighters has emerged
“We have been surprised to learn how poorly these professional fighters are treated in the UFC”, said Chris Griswold of Teamsters Local 986. The quote is taken from a statement released by the Mixed Martial Arts Fighter’s Association, in which they announced that they had secured the support of members from two of the United States most powerful labour organisations – UNITE HERE and the Teamsters. The MMAFA’s attempts to change the sport for the better have been bolstered by the involvement of California and Nevada based chapters of each union.
It is a move that many will welcome, although some will do so in secret.
The UFC brass, however, will not be so welcoming of the news. They will be anxious to block any outside influence on their business. They will also be irritated by the involvement of UNITE HERE who, according to bloodyelbow.com, have had previous encounters with the UFC’S ownership, due “to the efforts of an affiliated branch, Culinary Union 226, to unionize the Fertitta’s Station Casinos”.
It will be interesting to see how Dana White and the Fertitta’s deal with this situation. Will they continue to use the heavy handed tactics typical of a company with their monopoly status, and quash this endeavour from within?
Everything that has happened thus far in this ugly saga suggests this will be the likely course of action.
To read more about fighter pay in the UFC, the Reebok deal, censorship of fighters and the firing of “Stitch Duran click here.