The Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA) has announced its entrance into the efforts to unionize UFC fighters. The association is led by fighters Georges St.-Pierre, Tim Kennedy, Cain Velasquez, Donald Cerrone, and TJ Dillashaw with former Bellator owner Bjorn Rebney in an advisory capacity.
There are three goals for the MMAAA. The association wants to create a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), make a 50-50 revenue split between the UFC and UFC fighters, and to earn current and former fighters a settlement.
Bjorn Rebney is quick to say that the MMAAA is not a union. From MMA Fighting:
Rebney, who referred to the UFC as an “egregious, predatory monopoly” made it clear that the MMAAA is not a union. A union, he said, would delay all the things the fighters want. Rebney said the unity of an association would give the fighters real power against the UFC, even if it’s not a legal union in the eyes of the National Labor Relations Board. Rebney brought up a labor strike as a possibility as a way to take action against the UFC, though Velasquez and Kennedy both said they would not want it to come to that.
There is currently a class-action lawsuit against the UFC but no plaintiffs in that case are a aprt of the MMAAA.
The MMAAA took an early hit with Donald Cerrone quickly distanced himself from the MMAAA saying that he was only asked to be a part of the association. He wasn’t aware that he was going to be placed on a board. Cerrone also said, “There were a couple of people that were there that I don’t plan on working with and being a part of, not mentioning any names. I was there mostly just, not saying I’m leading a board or I’m sitting on a board, but more voicing my opinion of what this sport needs.”
Donal Cerrone is the only named fighter thus far that is not represented by CAA. E-mails between Rebney and Mike Fonseca, of CAA, have surfaced that lead some to believe that the CAA is backing the MMAAA. CAA competitor WME-IMG recently bought the UFC for $4 billion.
Bloody Elbow obtained a letter where a counsel consisting of Eric Cramer and Michael Dell’Angelo (Berger & Montague), Benjamin Brown and Richard Koffman (Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll), and Joseph Saveri. In the letter the counsel expresses concern that there would be a conflict with the on-going class-action lawsuit.
The attempt to form a unified front in order to unionize MMA fighters is still a struggle. There are multiple organizations now all claiming they have the backing of hundreds of fighters. There are not identical goals across the organizations, which could lead to a division among fighters, as the document above shows.
There appears to be plenty of interest and the fighters might have more leverage now than they will in the future but the fighters still need to establish goals and get behind one organization.