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MMA / Sports Law

Conor McGregor May Speak to US Congress on Extending Ali Act to MMA

Conor McGregor is only a few weeks away from the richest fight of his career and is now supposedly going to speak to Congress about extending the Ali Act to MMA Fighters.  Congressman Markwayne Mullin has been told by Conor McGregor’s team that McGregor is going to go to Capitol Hill and advocate for passing a bill that would help give greater transparency to the financial information in MMA in order to better protect MMA fighters.

The Ali Act was passed in 2000 and is designed to help protect fighters through financial transparency, tighter regulations, and help maintain the integrity of the sport.  One of the cornerstone parts of the Ali Act is that it protects fighters from “coercive contracts.”  Other key parts are aimed to separate promoters from the managerial process of the sport.  Boxing has rankings determined by independent commissions and promoters are not able to have a “direct or indirect financial interest in the management of their fighters.

Ringside Analysis:

UFC COO Lawrence Epstein gave commentary on the article written by Telegraph Sport.  Epstein says that the UFC exceeds any requirements when it comes to the health and safety of fighters, which is certainly true.  The UFC uses USADA for testing for performance enhancing drugs in athletes, which boxing as a whole does not, (Although some fighters require that their opponents undergo extensive testing with USADA) and the UFC has invested millions into a new performance training center near corporate headquarters in Las Vegas to help reduce the number of injuries that fighter sustain during training.

Where the UFC falls short is in its transparency of financial information relating to the distribution of revenue between the company and the fighters.  Proponents of extending the Ali Act to MMA fighters also take issue with the UFC allegedly exercising monopoly powers in getting fighters into coercive contracts.  Boxers are able to see all the financial information of the events that they take part in so that they can best assess their value and what their pay for their performances should be.  UFC fighters do not have the same knowledge when negotiating fight purses with the company.

The reason that the fighters cannot unionize and collectively bargain for these rights is because the UFC hires them as independent contractors and not employees.  By extending the Ali Act, the fighters wouldn’t need to form a union the way they do now to better argue for higher paydays.  A couple examples of how UFC fighters are actually employees instead of independent contractors is that they are restricted in what they can wear during work and are restricted in who they can work for.

What has been missing from the unionization effort is a big-time fighter at the height of his earning potential to take a stand.  The fighter would forego some of their income in order to challenge the UFC and collectively bargain as a union.  McGregor making an appearance to Congress could signal that he’s willing to now help start a union.  He is much more financially secure after the Mayweather fight so he would not be missing out on a life-changing amount of money.

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