$4 Billion Dollars
Mixed Martial Arts has steadily taken its place among the most popular mainstream sports draws across the globe. Part of the appeal, quite honestly, is due to the brutality and ferociousness that can come with each and every fight. In some places, it has supplanted professional boxing as the combat sport of choice. And while boxing has survived for centuries without having organized unions, MMA will more than likely have to face fighters will be clamoring for more of a voice in the main workplace where they ply their trade. The numbers don't lie...
Sanctioning + Bodies
MMA promotions are similar to boxing promotions in the sense that state regulatory bodies have to grant licenses to the promotions and the fighters (and likely support staff like medical staff, referees, judges, and others on hand) prior to the fighters entering the arena (ring or cage). One of the main differences between the two sports, not the only one of course, is that pro boxing also has sanctioning bodies which determine their champions and rankings. MMA fights are sanctioned by the promotion companies themselves, with the United Fighting Championship (UFC) leading the way by far.
The fact that the promotions are company centric makes them somewhat easier targets for fighter organizing drives. Obviously the need for long term fighter protection is there. Interest is likely there. The question here, like is the case in most organizing campaigns is where will the resources (capital, staff, knowledge base, skill, hunger, drive, and yeah…organization) come from? Fighters face challenges that need to be addressed on all levels.
Don't Complain and You'll Gain
First up is revenue sharing, as relatively low fighter pay is always an issue. Jealous boxing promoters, columnists, bloggers, and fighters themselves like Al “Raging” Iaquinta here recently have all railed against the pay the fighters, who are literally risking their lives every time they step up to fight, get on a nightly basis. Most promotions do supplement fighter contracts with pay-per view splits and competition “fight of the night” bonuses, etc. But these are often politically driven and doled out to company favorites, at least according to Mr. Iaquinta.
If the fighters were able to secure a collective bargaining agreement, under Sec. 7 of the National Labor Relations Act for example, they would be able to normalize the pay scale that fighter purses are paid and would be able to make it fair across the board for all fighters across weight class, gender, level of experience, performance, and record.
Some of the other big-ticket items that the fighters would be able to sit at the table with their respective promotions over would be health care coverage, drug testing and discipline, “personal conduct policies” like the ones that have been popularized in the NFL and NBA. Medical protocols over weigh in times, weigh in cut offs, and banned substances could also be on the table. And then there would be the other terms and conditions of work like the fighter’s use of outside sponsors in the arena, the selection of cutmen, the use of a fighter’s likeness on promotional or licensed products, pensions or retirement accounts, reimbursement for travel expenses, etc.
As more fighters start to find their voice and their footing, MMA promotions will be faced with increased calls for collective bargaining with their fighters. If the fighters unite and organize, they could ultimately make their bosses tap out. Only time will tell. They need to though. Somebody will change the game forever...is it you?
"I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want." - Muhammad Ali
Garrick Farria, esq.
I'm an attorney in Fort Worth Texas, married father, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Hobbyist, and I love dogs! I'm also a certified FIBA agent and currently represent over 20 professional basketball players through Aspire Sports Management.