by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
As the sport of mixed martial arts grows, so does the growing need for the fighters, who are now becoming financially sound and successful full-time athletes, to understand the business side of the industry they work in.
Recently, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest organization in MMA, held meetings with many of their fighters and employees to help educate and inform them on many business practices and personal decisions they are now being faced with.
“This thing was long overdue,” said UFC president Dana White about the meetings. “We should have done this a couple of years ago because we’ve got a lot of growing pains right now.
“I have 100 employees just at Zuffa, and I have 250 fighters under contract. (We’re) trying to keep everything under control and communicating with everybody, so we brought the fighters in and talked to them about everything. It was great. It was good for them and it was good for us.”
The UFC covered a great deal of subject matter according to White, to help educate and inform the fighters in this ever-growing industry.
“We talked to them about steroids, about their contracts, about taxes, about just everything, everything to do with the business. There’re guys who’ve been fighting in the UFC since 2001, since we bought it, that didn’t know a lot of the stuff. We explained why we do a lot of the things that we do.”
The meetings held by the UFC are similar in purpose to what both the National Basketball Association’s Rookie Transition Program and the National Football League’s Rookie Symposium hope to achieve with new athletes entering their respective sports.
The NBA’s program – the longest running of it’s kind in any professional sport at over 20 years – is held for new players entering the league over a six day period. They are given first hand knowledge of what it means to play in the NBA, taught about the pressures and demands of being a professional athlete and participate in focus groups which include sessions on media relations, personal development and education, legal education, player development, and financial help and professionalism.
The NFL also holds similar meetings with their new players to discuss much of the same subject matter and help ease the transition into the high profile world of professional sports.
The UFC is the first MMA organization to publicly disclose information about a meeting of this type held with its fighters and employees, helping to further legitimize the fast growing sport by helping its athletes understand the lifestyle and profession they now occupy as UFC employees.
White indicated the need for the meetings became even more apparent after the recent resignation of heavyweight champion Randy Couture, who stated numerous times when leaving the company that he felt his concerns were not heard by the management of Zuffa, the parent company for the UFC.
“First of all, we had some growing pains,” said White, “and I felt that we needed to talk to the fighters about what’s going on, what we’re doing, why we do the things we do, and obviously steroids was something we needed to talk about, and then the whole Randy Couture thing happened.
“I felt like there was obviously a lack of communication there that I thought Randy and I had. That whole thing freaked me out, so I wanted to talk to them all about that, too.”
No word has come from the UFC if this type of meeting will be an ongoing effort or possibly a yearly session like those of the NBA or NFL, but the message sent from the organization helps show they are serious about the business of MMA and that they want to educate the fighters under contract to them.