A five-member board consisting of current UFC fighters announced on Wednesday the formation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA). The announcement was billed as industry “redefining.”
The board, made up of former champions Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, and TJ Dillashaw, as well as current contenders Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Tim Kennedy, are seeking a settlement for past fighters, an increase in revenue shares closer to that of other professional sports, and a benefits package that includes insurance and pensions, among other things.
The five-member board claims that the revenue split for other professional sports is roughly 50/50, but only about 8 percent of UFC revenues go to the athletes. Kennedy called it “one-sided,” particularly considering that UFC was recently purchased by WME | IMG for roughly $4.2 billion.
Bellator MMA founder and former president Bjorn Rebney is acting in a “strategic advisor” position, utilizing his experience as a promoter and knowledge of the finances that drive a promotion to assist a board of directors that currently consists of Kennedy, St-Pierre, Cerrone, Velasquez, and Dillashaw.
“The board handling the decisions,” said Kennedy, making it clear that the fighters, not Rebney, were steering the ship.
The association is a work in progress and is only focused on the UFC at the moment because of the promotion’s status atop the industry. Eventually, “the dream is that we are going to be representative of the fighters as a whole,” according to Kennedy. It was a refrain echoed by the other fighters throughout a two-hour media conference call announcing the association.
“Don’t forget, the UFC without fighters, it’s only three letters of the alphabet,” said St-Pierre, who has been mired in a battle with the UFC over his current contract. “It’s time to make our voice heard and make change happen, for the best of the UFC and for the fighters.”
The MMAAA is not a union. It is an association. It’s an important distinction because fighters are independent contractors. A union would have forced legal battles that the association is trying to avoid, with Rebney admitting that any attempt to form a union around independent contractors was doomed to fail in the courts.
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