Enter Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association – Quick Thoughts

Posted: December 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

Today an anticipated press conference took place with the announcement of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association.

You can listen to full audio here courtesy of BloodyElbow.com

Notable about today’s announcement was the involvement of 5 currently relevant UFC fighters who were willing to put their full weight behind the association.  The fighters included Georges St-Pierre, Tim Kennedy, Donald Cerrone, Cain Velasquez and T.J. Dillashaw.

Unlike the recent equally high profile announcement of the Professional Fighters Association which was quarterbacked by an agent and a lawyer, the involvement of current fighters seemed to bring out a lot of support or at least curiosity from other fighters as evidenced by their reactions on twitter.

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Here are some quick points worth noting

The MMAFA have been in the game the longest, almost a decade.  Both the MMAFA, spearheaded by Arizona attorney Rob Meysey, and the MMAAA are seeking an association, not a union.  It is unclear if they will pool their efforts and work together or each blaze a path of their own.

Where the MMAFA and the MMAAA differ is the former is looking to protect all professional fighters whereas the MMAAA is looking only to form an association that will deal with UFC fighters.

Another fundamental difference seems to be with respect to the current anti-trust lawsuit the MMAFA has engineered.  The MMAAA spoke dismissively of this effort.

Both the MMAFA and the MMAAA differ from the PFA which is seeking to form a union instead of an association.  If you are not familiar with the difference this article is a good place to start where labor law professor Zev Eigen provided the following summary:

A professional association is broader in scope than a labor organization.

Labor organizations are defined by federal law—the National Labor Relations Act, or “NLRA.” Labor organizations exist to deal with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work. Unions like the Teamsters, or the Screen Actors’ Guild are examples of labor organizations. They are commonly organized around a community of interest in a particular category of work or profession. The Screen Actors Guild advances the interest of actors. The Writers Guild advances the interests of writers. Labor organizations are focused on representing a particular category of individuals and collectively representing them. Unions serve as the exclusive representative for their members in collective bargaining with their employers for wages, hours, and working conditions.

A professional association doesn’t necessarily collectively bargain. It doesn’t benefit from the protections that labor organizations have. For example, rules for labor organizations that pertain to strikes, work stoppages, protections against discrimination, and for union status, do not apply to a professional association, such as the American Bar Association (“ABA”) or the American Medical Association. Professional associations typically promulgate sets of rules or uniform standards pertaining to their members and typically the members are in one profession. Association members, even if they are negotiating with employers or other entities, are supposed to follow those rules or standards.

Another noteworthy development is the MMAAA suggested they have plans in place to make the UFC want to come to them and even mentioned collective bargaining which really is not a tool an association has at their disposal.

To the extent that the MMAAA is planning to be disruptive to the UFC to get their attention they must tread very lightly or risk violating US anti-collusion laws and the tort of intentional interference with contractual relations.

As noted by the FTCforming a trade association does not shield joint activities from antitrust scrutiny: Dealings among competitors that violate the law would still violate the law even if they were done through a trade association. For instance, it is illegal to use a trade association to control or suggest prices of members. It is illegal to use information-sharing programs, or standardized contracts, operating hours, accounting, safety codes, or transportation methods, as a disguised means of fixing prices.”

And by the Department of JusticeWhen competitors collude, prices are inflated and the customer is cheated. Price fixing, bid rigging, and other forms of collusion are illegal and are subject to criminal prosecution by the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice

Hopefully the MMAAA has the counsel of a seasoned US labor lawyer to guide them in the right direction.  With James W. Quinn apparently being in the mix it appears the MMAAA have this base covered.

It is hard to argue that UFC fighters can’t benefit from reform with them likely receiving a relatively small percentage of the revenues they help generate when compared to other major sports.  I will repeat my previous comments that 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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