The Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association
In the boxing world, fighters get 50%, in the MMA, just 8%
George St Pierre and Cain Velasquez are two of the biggest Pay Per View fighters that the UFC and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) have. They have headlined major promotions, Velasquez was part of the first main event during the first UFC on FOX and both have been UFC champions. Last week both fighters joined with T.J. Dillashaw and other fighters to announce the formation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association.
If you have ever watched an MMA fight, you probably have heard of the UFC. The biggest promotor in the MMA world, they put on major fights at some of the biggest arenas in the country. While the fighters are the main draw, none of the fighters actually work for the company. All of the fighters are independent contractors, who get a cut of the proceeds similar to how boxing works. However, since the UFC is such a big player in the sport, the company takes advantage of the fighters. St. Pierre, who has been involved in a long running contract dispute with the company, said that fighters are not receiving a fair share of the revenue. “Most of the sports it’s 50/50 — promoter, athlete. For us, we have around 8 percent,” St-Pierre said.
Velasquez and other fighters also said that they were joining the union because they have faced numerous injuries over their careers and have had to pay for all of the medical expenses out of their own pocket. "My first fight in the UFC was in 2008," he said. "Since then I've had seven surgeries." At the press conference the fighters outlined their demands from the company. First, they want a settlement that pays back costs that fighters have accrued over the last decade plus. Second, they want a change to the fight payout system that increases the fighter share to 50%. Finally, the fighters want a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) similar to that of other professional sports leagues.
With the UFC’s position in the industry, standing up can be a risky proposition. The UFC is the sole decider of who fights and who does not. Some fighters are under contract with the UFC and the company can just sit on their contract waiting for it to expire while the fighter cannot fight or make any money. The fighters don’t even own the licensing for their brands so they can’t sell their t-shirts or gear on the sides either. While there are a few other MMA promotions, they are much smaller and have no were near the payouts that the UFC has, even if fighters are getting a higher percentage. This may be part of the reason that over the last few years, three different attempts at organizing fighters have been announced. The fighters at the press conference, 4 of which have December fights, acknowledged this point. “We’re here today to take a stand and also fight for all the fighters who have those same problems,” St-Pierre said. “Fighters who got bullied and intimidated. Fighters who are afraid to retire or get fired left broken with brain injuries, physical trauma with no insurance and care.”
The fighters acknowledge that they have a long way to go before the notoriously anti-union UFC is willing to sit down with them and negotiate a CBA. In the meantime, the MMAAA is focused on signing up new fighters to increase their power and they hope that the growing movement towards organizing will push the UFC into more fighter friendly positions.