The UFC has long been criticized for how it treats fighters. Fighters say they are mistreated and under-compensated while the UFC says that the fighters get paid enough based on the revenue that the UFC pulls in, and if the fighters don’t like it, the UFC says they can go to one of the other promotions like Bellator.
TJ Dillashaw is coming off a unanimous decision win over Raphael Assuncao at UFC 200. On the Team Alpha Male’s Stud Show Radio program Dillashaw was very critical of the UFC signs fighters as contractors instead of workers.
“They treat us like employees, but they don’t give us benefits like employees. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. We have to tell them where we’re at at all times, so USADA can show up and drug test us. But we don’t get health benefits. It’s kind of crazy that we are controlled. Any time you have to tell work where you’re at and what you’re doing, that’s considered an employee, not a contractor. They can’t tell a subcontractor what to do and when to do it. So this whole drug-testing thing is kind of crazy and the way they’re making us wear Reebok and all this stuff we have to do. They’re treating us like employees, but not giving us the benefits of an employee.
With UFC, we’ve pretty much stayed in the dark as much as possible. They’re telling us they’re not selling the company when everyone knows they’re selling it. It’s public record, but they’re still trying to tell us they weren’t. They’re just going to wait for the last minute for everything for us to find out.”
Dillashaw isn’t wrong. Yesterday I wrote about how there are clear examples in the agreements between the UFC and fighters that are indicative of a contractor role and an employee role. Dillashaw has valid grievances with the UFC but the UFC is within their legal rights to continue these business practices in the future, which I think was a selling point in the sale from Zuffa to WME-IMG.
Fighters would fall under the “contractor” role because they can set their own hours unsupervised and promote on their own behalf outside of what the UFC provides. Largely, one could simply make the argument that UFC fighters are contract workers because they sign a written agreement that they are going to be working as contractors.
Fighters would fall under the “employee” role because they are forced to wear certain clothing and are restricted to working only for the UFC. The inability to work for other companies holds the most weight to me.
From a legal perspective I would consider that the restriction on who the fighters can work for and the forced work uniforms would place fighters in the employee category and would outweigh other arguments that the fighters are employees. However, it is up to a fighter to challenge the UFC on their business practice. With the UFC being a private company they are unwilling to change a system that works for them. The only thing that could really impact their practice is a legal ruling that UFC fighters are actually employees.
If, and only if, UFC fighters are ruled as employees and not contractors they could finally, legally, unionize and enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the UFC.
[h/t MMA Fighting]