Unrest amongst fighters on the UFC roster seems to be ever growing.
Pay gripes, dissatisfaction with the Reebok deal, and an overall feeling that they have been mistreated by the company has led a number of athletes to speak out as of late.
During a recent interview with Stud Radio, for example, former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw claimed that fighters were being treated like employees, despite their legal status as independent contractors, yet were receiving none of the benefits to which employees are entitled.
While the news that the promotion had been sold for $4 billion caused a tidal wave of comments regarding fighter pay on Twitter.
Perfect time to change the revenue split to ➡️ 46% / 54% split to be equal to the other major sports.💰💰💰 #WeAllNeedToEat
— Jeremy Stephens (@LiLHeathenMMA) July 11, 2016
So I asked UFC brass after the sale, does that mean we all get paid more??? and they said… https://t.co/vaRoSPz35X
— Big Ben Rothwell (@RothwellFighter) July 11, 2016
4 bil… I was probably worth more and so was everyone else right?
— Al Iaquinta🗽 (@ALIAQUINTA) July 11, 2016
Though most of the core problems existed prior to the sale, it seems that this event has had a major impact on the already volatile situation. Fighters see the sort of money that the former power-players have made and their own meagre paydays seem even more ludicrous by comparison.
Now, perhaps, they have a greater sense of their own value.
For these reasons and others, Marc Raimondi recently considered the possibility that the sale could act as a catalyst for a fighter’s association in an excellent article for MMAFighting.
Only days later, veteran heavyweight Mark Hunt has called for exactly that.
The personal catalyst for the Kiwi KO artist’s own plea for fighter unity was the revelation that his UFC 200 opponent had failed a pair of drug tests prior to their bout, but all of the other issues referenced above and indeed the sale of the company played a role.
“The way I see it, the Brock Lesnar doping thing is just another reason why we need a fighter’s association,” Hunt told reporters from his own website. “These guys are just making up the rules as they go”.
“First the Reebok thing, then Brock’s 4 month testing exemption. Conor[McGregor] gets pulled off a card for not going to a press conference that me or Brock didn’t go to anyway. Work that out. There’s probably a heap of others”.
“Once they decided they were gunna(sic) cut Conor out, they didn’t care, they just needed a name to make 200 big. Exemptions for Brock but not for Conor, I don’t know how you can just do that.”
Hunt used the example of how members of the media banded together in the wake of Ariel Helwani’s ‘lifetime ban’ to demonstrate the power of collective effort in the face of injustice, adding that this is something currently lacking among the fighters.
“You just have to look at how Ariel gets his media pass taken away cause he broke a story about Brock, then he gets it back when other media stood up for him and called out the UFC,” he said. “These guys are just making sh*t it up as they go”.
“Yet fighters refuse to support other fighters when they f*ck us over.”
Though he refused to take credit from the Fertitta brothers or Dana White for the way in which they developed the company, the ‘Super Samoan’ reminded his fellow fighters of their importance in the process.
“These guys have lined their pockets with our blood if you ask me,” said Hunt. “I mean they deserve to get paid no doubt, they took the UFC from nothing into what it is today, but come on, most of the guys fighting, get paid nothing and have no benefits.
“If you ask me there needs to be a system where they at least run things past the fighters before making these decisions and the fighters can look out for each other. We need an association where we can have our voices heard. We are a massive reason why fans watch the sport and we risk our health to do it”.
“I’m not worried about the UFC. Shucks, I’ve been fighting my whole life. Fighting to survive in my home, to the ring and now cage. These guys didn’t even want me in the UFC but here I am. I’m not scared of them”.
“I’m not sure what its like in the states, but in Australia workers stick together to make sure their voice is heard. Lots of guys have talked about this, but someone needs to make this happen and I’m happy for it to be me”.
“To the fighters listening to this I want them to get in touch with me via my Facebook page and we can get things going. I won’t name anyone until we sort it all out, but get in touch and lets make this happen.”
The issues of the last few years have created fertile ground within the UFC and Mark Hunt is sowing the seeds of revolution.