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
December 11, 2016
With an ultimatum made by plaintiffs’ attorneys on behalf of the fighters suing Zuffa to the MMAAA, Dana White appears to be the winner at this point.
In an interview with TSN, White finds the current state of organizing fighters hilarious. He has specifically called out Bjorn Rebney, the former Bellator head. On the UFC Unfiltered podcast, he referred to him as “Bjork.”
Last week, the MMAAA was unveiled with Rebney as an unpaid strategic adviser according to the organization. This week, plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC, et al. sent a “cease and desist” letter to Rebney on behalf of MMAAA advising them that they were the court appointed representative of the class of fighters that Rebney’s group is seeking. Moreover, it was revealed in the letter signed by Eric Cramer, that Rebney met with the plaintiffs’ attorneys at CAA offices in New York. The meeting was to determine whether the two sides would come together. However, according to Cramer, Rebney wanted input as well as a portion of costs related to his fees associated with putting together what was to become MMAAA. Of course, MMAAA denies this.
White has called Rebney a “bottom-feeder” stating that he is out to make money implying that he does not have the interests of fighters in mind.
With the PFA, MMAAA and MMAFA seeking to advocate for the rights of fighters but competing with each other at the same time, White has to find it amusing. While each of these groups are seeking to bargain with the UFC for better pay, pensions and other interests, they need a unified front of fighters. But, with competing interests on the fighter side, the UFC has no obligation to negotiate with any of these groups. Aside from the lawsuit, which UFC lawyers are dealing with, the UFC will likely just wait and see if there is any need to address any of these groups.
November 30, 2016
Fighters Georges St-Pierre, Tim Kennedy, Cain Velasquez, T.J. Dillashaw, Donald Cerrone and former Bellator MMA promoter Bjorn Rebney announced the formation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA) at a teleconference Wednesday afternoon.
The MMAAA will focus on an association within the UFC. There were no specifics about the steps they will take to achieve an association, how they will address the UFC in seeking a settlement and how they are funded.
Rebney inferred the possibility of a labor strike if the UFC does not meet the demands of the MMAAA.
St-Pierre stated at the press conference that athletes in the UFC make just 8% of the revenues whereas athletes in other pro sports make close to 50% of the revenues.
— The MMAAA (@Themmaaa) November 30, 2016
GSP’s lawyer, Jim Quinn, was also in attendance. GSP is still in a contract dispute with the UFC although he maintains that he is a free agent.
Rebney, the former Bellator MMA head, stated that he was not being paid despite working on this idea for 2 years.
MMAAA has an office in Anaheim Hills, California and is registered as a 501(c)(6) under the Internal Revenue Code.
There are a lot of questions than answers that came out of this call. As brought up in the press conference, Creative Artists Agency, the rival to WME-IMG, will not be directly a part of the MMAAA per Rebney. However, CAA supports the athletes. Notably, GSP, Kennedy, Cain and Dillashaw are represented by CAA. Its hard not to think that a part of this fight has to do with the ongoing competition between the two top Hollywood power brokers. MMAAA is directed at the UFC. Will there be a point as to when and if it will look to aid Bellator, WSOF and other fighters? Also, will more fighters join the board which is comprised mainly of Americans? Will this create competition between MMAFA and PFA, two other groups seeking to organize fighters? Finally, how many fighters are speculating on this group by the inclusion of Rebney as a consultant? His track-record on dealing with fighters has been notorious.
We shall see.
November 28, 2016
A press release sent out Monday indicates that there will be a major MMA announcement this week. Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, T.J. Dillashaw, Donald Cerrone, Tim Kennedy and former MMA promoter Bjorn Rebney are linked to an “industry re-defining” announcement on Wednesday.
A conference call Wednesday afternoon will reveal the details of the announcement.
The speculation is that another MMA Association may be in the offing. Notably, GSP, Cain, Dillashaw and Kennedy are represented by CAA. Although I can’t confirm, Cerrone may be represented by CAA as well.
This will be an interesting announcement to learn about. If it is another take at organizing fighters, it will be the first with big-named fighters putting their name to it. MMAFA have had support from the likes of Jon Fitch, but GSP is one of the top-tier fighters in MMA. The other fighters are current UFC fighters. We may be seeing the rivalry between top Hollywood power brokers (WME-IMG and CAA) seeping into the world of MMA.
August 17, 2016
The Professional Fighters Association is making waves after its announcement last week of its formation and intent to unionize UFC fighters. Jeff Borris has made the media rounds and announced a press conference set for Thursday in Las Vegas.
Maybe in direct or indirect response, the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association (MMAFA) has released a statement via its Facebook page.
The Facebook statement goes on to address the issue of agents involved in organizing fighters:
Agent efforts to organize and agent involvement in association operations suffer from two fatal conflicts. First, agents vigorously compete with each other, creating divisions preventing successful formation and operation of the association. Second, agents appropriately view all issues through the lens of “my clients.” Association efforts, on the other hand, must be viewed through the lens of all member fighters.
PFA’s Borris is a sports agent and is a part of an agency that represents the Diaz brothers. The obvious inference by the MMAFA in its post is that agents should not be involved in efforts to organize fighters due to conflicts of interest.
Borris said in his interview on The MMA Hour that he is not opposed to MMAFA and believes that their mission differs from PFA.
It’s clear that PFA and MMAFA are, or will be in the near future, on a collision course. Both want to organize fighters. PFA wants to unionize just UFC fighters while MMAFA is looking at a broader base of MMA fighters to organize in an association. Who is right? Who is wrong? What opposition will they face aside from each other? Time will tell.