Do MMA fighters need to unionize?
UFC executive Lorenzo Fertitta was asked at UFC Fan Expo 2010 about fighters unionizing. "We have no role," Fertitta said. "So we're not in a position to say we support it, or we're against it. That's entirely up to [the fighters]" he told mmajunkies.com.
One unofficial rule that seems to be carried out differently, is the lose-three-fights-in-a-row-and-you’re-out rule. But that rule isn't carried out for all fighters. Light heavyweight Tito Ortiz has one draw and four losses in his last five fights, but he is still employed by the UFC. It’s being reported that Ortiz is not only fighting in Ultimate Fight Night 24 in March 2011, but he’s headlining the event. Veteran fighter Keith Jardine had to lose four fights in a row to be released from the UFC. Recently, lightweight Chris Horodecki was released after losing one fight.
The UFC also released Gerald Harris after losing his last fight; he had won three fights in a row. Two of his fights were awarded “Knockout of the Night.” The UFC releases him after one bad performance. His loss to Maiquel Falcão snapped an official 10-fight win streak.
UFC president Dana White expressed his displeasure with Harris at the post fight news conference when he said, “This isn’t the [expletive] Ultimate Staring Competition, it’s the Ultimate Fighting Championship.”
But this is another Dana White decision made without thinking it through, just like the comment he made about MMA trainer Greg Jackson's fighters not consistently finishing fights. Several UFC fighters have told me that’s just Dana White talking before he thinks.
Fighters being unfairly released is not the only issue. Fighter purse is a big issue as well. Veteran MMA fighter Gary Goodridge fought Gegard Mousasi at FEG's "Dynamite!! 2009" and complained that the promotion didn’t pay him for the match. It’s been more than a year and he is still waiting.
In the UFC, fighters’ payment is a problem, and the amount that fighters are earning is also a problem. How do you pay Matt Hamill $29,000, with a $29,000 win bonus and pay his opponent Tito Ortiz $250,000 to fight. Ortiz hasn’t won since 2006 when he last beat 42-year-old Ken Shamrock.
Now, I do take my hat off to Tito Ortiz for standing up to White in the past and now this could be a case of the squeaky wheel getting the oil. In 2008, Yahoo Sports reported White saying, “(Ortiz) is one of the most dishonest human beings I’ve ever met,” White said. “I put up with him when he was a good fighter. He’s not anymore. He’s done. I’m no longer in the Tito Ortiz business.”
How can you pay him a quarter-million dollar to fight and he loses his fourth fight in a row and still employed?
“These are the big-leagues, man,” White said. “It’s no different than Major League Baseball, no different than the NFL. You perform, or you go away.”
Yes there are differences; the NFL and MLB have rules that are the same for everyone. The players union makes sure that management upholds the rules, that favoritism in the workplace isn’t tolerated and that rules aren’t made on one man likes or dislikes.
If the UFC ran its organization like the NFL or MLB you wouldn’t have hall-of-fame fighters insinuating to the media about being mistreated. Randy Couture told Sherdog.com, "I think the final straw for me was meeting with Dana and Lorenzo (Fertitta, UFC co-owner) where they claimed I was the No. 2 paid athlete in the organization, which I know is a bold-faced lie," Couture said. Polling other athletes, said Couture, he learned that his compensation — some $250,000 a fight with pay-per-view bonuses, according to the Couture camp — was nowhere near what other top UFC fighters were making.
"All us athletes are all pretty tightly intertwined," he said. "You hear what other guys were paid signing bonuses and what other guys were paid on the record and off the record with bonuses. I've heard Chuck's numbers. Tito's numbers. Hughes' numbers. Quinton's numbers. Cro Cop, Wanderlei. I heard what they were offering Fedor, and it's insulting."
Strikeforce and former UFC fighter Dan Henderson when asked if he missed being in the UFC, he said, “I have no regrets as far as in leaving the UFC and Strikeforce they are good to the fighters. They don’t take advantage of the fighters; it’s refreshing.”
MMA veteran Matt Lindland told Eddie Goldman, he doubted fighters ever would unionize and placed blame on poor representation.
"Unless you can get the top athletes, you're not going to [unionize]," said Lindland. "The fighters [are] all [opportunists]; they just fight for the biggest purse, and it's going to be tough unless you could somehow get all the fighters to agree to something like that. There's always somebody going to come up underneath who's not willing to do it.
"There's enough support [for a union], but these guys outside of the cage or outside of the ropes are cowards. You know they would not dare stand up to the powers-that-be."
What are your thoughts on fighters creating a union?