16 for 16: No. 2 PFA and MMAAA attempt to organize fighters
December 31, 2016
Two movements seeking to organize fighters launched this year as the discontent over pay and benefits grew. Whether or not either one will be successful is yet to be determined.
In addition to the PFA and MMAAA which announced their intent to organize UFC fighters. The Professional Fighters Association, led by Jeff Borris, seeks to organize UFC fighters to establish a union and a fighters’ association to collectively bargain with the UFC. Borris, a baseball agent, made the announcement in August. However, the PFA has experienced troubles in just 4 months of attempting to reach out to fighters. Its labor lawyer, Lucas Middlebrook and one of its core supporters, UFC fighter Leslie Smith left PFA due to disclosures made about a fighter board that was released in an MMA Junkie article. Smith believed those names were confidential. Borris denies that he leaked the names.
Notably, a press release sent out on Friday by PFA noted that it would cease efforts if it was unable to obtain the requisite number of fighter signatures by April 2nd.
On November 30th, MMAAA announced its intent to organize fighters behind former Bellator head Bjorn Rebney. The press conference included Georges St. Pierre, Tim Kennedy, Donald Cerrone, Cain Velasquez and T.J. Dillashaw. The fighter presence gave credibility to the organization and they indicated that they would actively recruit more fighters to join. Rebney indicated that they would intend to collectively bargain on behalf of the UFC fighters. Curiously, he stated that MMAAA would focus on an association rather than a union. There were no specifics given on how they would achieve its goals.
Of course, Rebney’s involvement did not sit well with many. Fighters and managers spoke out about him and questioned whether he was the right person to be lending advice.
A week later, lawyers on behalf of the former UFC fighters in the antitrust lawsuit in Nevada sent a “cease and desist” letter to Rebney and MMAAA stating that they stop their attempt to organize fighters by December 9th. No word on whether the parties have settled or legal action is pending. The letter indicated that Rebney met with the lawyers on behalf of the plaintiffs at CAA offices in New York to discuss working together. However, Rebney and his attorneys wanted to share in any recovery for use to repay investors and fund MMAAA. They also wanted to participate in any settlement negotiations with the UFC.
MMAAA denied the allegations set forth in the letter and stating that the lawyers in the antitrust lawsuit were just interested in attorney fees and not the long term benefits of the fighters.
Notably, MMAFA, a long-time organization working for better conditions for fighters, have supported the litigation against the UFC.
Will there be any chance that there will be a collective effort for MMA fighters to organize? At this point, it’s more likely that we’ll see a lawsuit between the class action plaintiffs’ attorneys and Rebney’s MMAAA before we see an organized effort by fighter to collectively bargain with the UFC or any organization.
16 for 16
5. UFC 200
14. Bellator 149
15. CM Punk debuts