Former UFC fighter Leslie Smith files NLRB Complaint against UFC

May 2, 2018

Leslie Smith has filed an unfair labor practices charge against the UFC with the National Labor Relations Board according to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.

The complaint was filed in the NLRB’s Philadelphia office and alleges that the UFC violated certain section of the National Labor Relations Act by taking adverse action against Smith for engaging in union organizing, a protected activated under federal law.

Smith has been an advocate of fighters organizing via union or association.  She launched “Project Spearhead” in February which was an effort for UFC athletes to unionize through obtaining signatures from fighters which, if enough signatures acquired, would lead to a vote conducted by the NLRB.  Previously, she was part of the Professional Fighters Association which attempted to do a similar thing.

In her last contracted fight, her opponent did not make weight and Smith, within her rights, refused to take a catchweight fight.  The UFC paid her show and win money for her fight and determined not to re-sign her.

Payout Perspective:

The NLRB Complaint will be interesting to see if it will lead to the UFC making changes or being forced to do so by the Labor Relations Board.  We wrote about issues of standing assuming Smith would have filed a lawsuit in federal court.  While the NLRB may be different, her departure from the UFC will be depicted as the UFC allowing her contract to end and making a decision not to re-sign her.  While this may be a constructive termination, the facts behind re-signing her do not immediately go to her being involved in union activities.  Granted, it looks bad, but the UFC will make the argument that it had no bearing on deciding on not having her return.

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