Fragmentation in the Struggle for MMA Fighter Unity

For the better part of a decade lawyer Rob Maysey has been pushing for a more equitable labor landscape for professional MMA athletes through the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association.  Mayesey’s efforts have included lobbying for State legislative reform, Federal legislative reform, an anti-trust lawsuit against the sport’s biggest promoter and vocally creating awareness of current contractual conditions for the athletes.

In the wake of the recently reported $4 Billion sale of the UFC, others are stepping into the mix.

Yesterday it was revealed that New York lawfirm Lichten and Bright hope to be a player in the effort to unionize fighter with the lawyers noting

We are labor lawyers with a combined 40 years of experience representing unions and people seeking to organize unions…We are not associated with past efforts to unionize UFC fighters. We believe that legalization in New York, together with the explosive growth in the popularity and revenues of the UFC in recent years, and recent sale of the UFC, present a unique opportunity for the UFC’s athletes to join together and create a union or association that will put them on par with other professional athletes competing in major sports leagues, both financially and in terms of the influence they have over how their sport is run and its athletes are treated.

Today, as first reported by MMAFighting’s Marc Raimondi, another organization was launched with a view towards organizing fighters.  The Professional Fighters Association launched their website and Twitter handle and explain as follows:

Historically, owners have taken advantage of the athletes until they created a unified association to combat the owners’ greedy ways. Professional sports history shows how the formation of an association to collectively bargain employment terms has dramatically increased the compensation and working conditions of an organized membership. These associations have helped players financially and given them control over their careers and their life after they finish competing. The MMA business is a billion dollar industry where all fighters, even the ones at the top, receive only a fraction of what they deserve.

This will continue unchecked until there is a unified front on the part of the fighters in order to level the playing field and stop those at the top from taking advantage of the fighters in the Octagon. Remember – the fighters generate the revenue.

Where does this all leave the fighters?  Probably fragmented and confused.

For one thing the competing groups appear to have different means in mind.  The MMAFA seek to form an association whereas the New York lawfirm and the PFA seem to have a union in mind.  Reporter John Nash did a good job explaining the difference in this 2015 article.

As the fight for organization takes hold solidarity will be key.  All organizations must have the same goal in mind which is improved conditions for fighters.  Fighters should have a simple choice, do they wish to have collective representation or not?  If so there should be one organization speaking for them.  Big Tent politics.  Egos, personal agendas and in-fighting should not play a role.  All stakeholders should get on the same page to ensure the best representation of fighters interests and hopefully efforts to do so are going on behind the scenes.

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