Bellator files Statement on Ali Act for Congressional Hearing

November 12, 2017

Bellator MMA submitted a statement to last week’s Subcommittee Hearing on MMA.  The Statement was written by Tracey Lesetar-Smith, Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at Viacom Media Networks and supports the expansion of the Ali Act to combat sports.

The statement, which becomes part of the Congressional record on MMA, gives a brief history of the boxing and MMA ecosystems.  Lesetar-Smith states that boxing had a pre-existing, sanctioning-body architecture while MMA “organically developed” under a “league” system.  This is described as a different business model than that of boxing.  Unlike the UFC, Bellator states that it “co-promotes events with smaller domestic local promoters and international fight promoters to enhance [its] events and allow them [local promoters] opportunities to showcase their league talent.

Lesetar-Smith made it clear that boxing and MMA use “multi-year, multi-fight, exclusive promotional contracts” and it is not prohibited in the original Ali Act.  There was a distinction made between these contracts and those “coercive contracts” addressed in the Ali Act.

She explained why the organization uses exclusive contracts.  “Bellator invests a great deal of time, resources, and capital into promoting and marketing each long-term athlete and therefore the exclusivity and duration of each contract reflects a desire to seek a return on investment.”  The multi-fight contracts also allow for Bellator to plan and budget for events in advance.  There is also an “outlay” of money for fighters that they do not immediately recoup.

The Statement notes that the UFC “utilized tactics that made competition in the MMA industry very challenging.”  This has made it a challenge to compete with the UFC.

The “unimpaired movement of skilled athletes to organizations” is one of the primary things that can overturn UFC market share according to Bellator.

Bellator states that it relies upon State and Tribal Athletic Commissions to regulate its events.  However, lack of funding, staff and resources have made regulation a challenge.  Bellator requests that the federal government “advocate for and support the work of these Commissions.”  It also champions the health and safety of its fighters and expressed concerns regarding traumatic brain injury and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and pushed for further safeguards.

Bellator Statement in Support of Ali Act by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

The issue of fighter safety as it relates to TBI or CTE is not addressed in the proposed legislation although Bellator advocates for it.  The requests that the federal government support further health and safety measures is admirable but it also would mean a budget and allocation of federal spending which may not be feasible in this present economic client.  Whether or not you believe that free agency over time will level the field for which Bellator may catch up to the UFC, it is plausible but may not be possible especially with the mainstream appeal of the brand and its new owners.  Yet, Bellator’s statement is the flip side of the UFC’s position on the Ali Act.  It’s an interesting position but remember, among other key differences between the organizations, Bellator does not rely on PPV revenue as much as the UFC nor does it pay its fighters as much.

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