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Fighters Union


ColinBollocks

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This seems to be catching quite a bit of steam in recent weeks, what with the Professional Fighters Association getting launched, so thought it's worth keeping a thread for all the updates.
 
Needless to say, the UFC contracts are as nonsense as the ones WWE hand out so it will be interesting to see what happens.
 
Jeff Borris was on the MMA Hour to tell the story.


 
or from MMAfighting.com.
 

Jeff Borris is the counsel for the Ballengee Group, the agency that represents Nate Diaz. The longtime baseball agent took a look at Diaz's contract for the fight with Conor McGregor at UFC 196 in March and could not believe what he saw.

"They're baffling when you read them," Borris said of UFC contracts on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. "It's just preposterous the things that are in there that I don't believe are legal, valid or enforceable. I even believe the UFC knows that."

 

Soon after, Borris said he and Diaz's agent Lloyd Pierson met with UFC president Dana White and other UFC execs. Borris said he asked White why fighters have yet to unionize and White "kind of scoffed at the idea."

"I walked out of the meeting and I turned to Lloyd and I told him, ‚ÄėI'm gonna unionize these guys,'" Borris said.

 

A few months later and that's exactly what Borris is attempting to do. The former agent for the likes of baseball stars Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco is putting forth an effort to get fighters to unionize through a new organization called the Professional Fighters Association (PFA). Borris, who describes himself as a longtime fight fan, feels like fighters are currently competing on an unfair playing field.

 

Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta sold the UFC to Hollywood talent agency WME-IMG last month for $4 billion. Multiple groups have come forward attempting to unionize fighters, including the PFA. The MMA Fighters Association (MMAFA), which is currently focused on bringing boxing's Ali Act to MMA, has been in existence for the last eight years.

Borris, whose life as an agent inspired the HBO show "Arliss," said his group has the backing of all the other major sports players unions, including the MLPBA and NFLPA. There are quotes from the heads of those organizations on the PFA website.

 

"This just can't happen," Borris said of current fighter conditions. "With the sale also. It indicates that the UFC is really the premier league. When you look at Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, National Hockey League, it's right up there with them now. And these fighters need representation. Their rights right now are being trampled upon and it's probably worse than ever. The UFC is profiting, which is OK. They're running a successful business, they're entitled to it. But the fighters, they're the show. They're the ones that drive that business and they're entitled to be compensated for their efforts."

 

On the PFA website, there are pie charts showing the percentage revenue athletes in other major sports are getting, compared to what UFC fighters are believed to be getting. In other sports, the share is more than 40 percent for the most part. For fighters, the number is estimated to be at 15 percent, though it's impossible to know for sure, because the UFC is a private company.

Borris said a union would also wish to collectively bargain for things like medical insurance, a pension, pay minimums, a drug policy, licensing deals and uniform contracts. Borris pointed to the UFC's apparel partnership with Reebok as a major issue, because fighters are only able to wear that brand and not any of their individual sponsors.

 

"That's something that I look at as an agent and I laugh at," Borris said. "That would never fly in baseball or any of the other major sports. And yet it flies in the UFC? That must change."

One of the biggest issues facing a union is the fact that UFC fighters are currently considered independent contractors. A court would need to consider them employees before a union certified under the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would be a possibility. Borris thinks that would be a slam dunk.

 

"They already are employees and I'll tell you why," Borris said. "The UFC is the boss. They tell them where to fight, when to fight, what to wear then they fight. They're employees and they're full-time employees. You know what it takes to train for a fight?"

 

Borris said he has spoken to many fighters already and every single one of them is at least interested. He even put his personal phone number on the PFA website so he can speak with fighters directly. The typical response when speaking to fighters, Borris said, was that they don't want to upset the UFC and face retaliation if they support a union.

"My batting average is 1.000," Borris said. "Every single one of them that I talked to wants this. There is one common theme, though, and that common theme is a lot of them are fearful of the UFC, that they're going to retaliate against them. What's funny is inside the Octagon, they're courageous, they show no fear. But outside the Octagon, in the business arena, they're scared. I'm trying to tell them, ‚ÄėListen, there are rules in this country preventing employers from preventing employees from organization. Don't worry, they're not going to retaliate.'

"I don't know what the UFC has done to bully or instill this fear in fighters, but they've done a good job."

 

Borris said he is not looking to denigrate the UFC, but he hopes that from a business standpoint they understand and appreciate what he's trying to do.

"I don't begrudge the UFC," he said. "I'm a fan of the UFC's business model. I think they've done tremendous. I think their $4 billion sale is well deserved and they are to be applauded for what they've done. And they should be concerned with their bottom line. These fighters do also. They're the ones that drive their business. I would like for them to respect that in a professional atmosphere and just compensate the fighters appropriately."

 

The UFC did not respond to a request for comment on Borris' remarks.

 

It's going to take time, Borris said. He will be in Las Vegas this week before UFC 202 in order to speak with fighters and hold a press conference. If it comes together, fighters will need to sign authorization cards and 30 percent need to come back interested for an election of a union to be held with the recognition of the NLRB. Then, a majority vote would be needed to install the PFA to collectively bargain for UFC fighters.

 

Lucas Middlebrook, counsel for Nick Diaz and the attorney for many unions like the MLS referees and NBA referees, will be handling that aspect, Borris said. Of course, fighters would have to be designated as employees rather than independent contractors before that could happen.

There are many moving parts, but Borris believes this needs to happen and soon. The motto on the front page of PFA's website is "The time is now for a change."

Borris doesn't just want a majority vote. He's hoping to get a much greater percentage of the more than 500 fighters under UFC contract.

 

"I want to get them all," Borris said. "Because that's going to send a message to the UFC and it's going to say, look they stand together. they're the ones that drive your business. They aren't divided. There aren't multiple factions within that group of 600. They stay unified and then it's a fair fight.

"If they're divided, the UFC wins. The fighters' rights are gonna continue to be trampled upon for many, many years to come."

 


Of course, the timing of this smacks of Jeff Borlin seeing those billions and realising he's found some oil. He denies it, but come on now. Despite this the fighters need this going forward, it's no secret the UFC take he piss with their fighters.

 

McGregor has also come out recently and said, in time, he'll get behind it, which is huge news for the PFA.

 

How do we all think this will turn out then?

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I can see it happening. Jeff Borris is the type of powerful guy who can sell this to fighters.

 

I like seeing people like him come into the sport even if it is for his own means as it will help the fighters in the end. TBH I've never been that impressed by most MMA managers but now top fighters are starting to get sports agents from powerhouse agency's like Jeff's. These guys are sharks and used to dealing with huge sums of money for their clients in other sports. Dana would intimidate alot of managers in the past during negotiations, these guys are a different animal. Its going to be funny how he handles them, he has been rather thin skinned in the past when pushed about over money.

 

I can see Dana "kind of scoffing" at the idea of a Union and it winding someone like Jeff Borris up. Dana won't handle this idea building steam that well and will publicly piss and moan about it I'd imagine. Probably lean on alot of guys and girls not to sign up. If enough get on board theres nothing that the UFC can do though.

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Five high-profile UFC fighters are launching a fighters association.

 

The group, headlined by all-time great Georges St-Pierre, will be called the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association and will focus on evening the playing field between fighters and the UFC, it was announced on a media conference call Wednesday.

 

St-Pierre was joined on the call by Tim Kennedy, Cain Velasquez, Donald Cerrone and T.J. Dillashaw. Those five fighters will make up the association's first board. Former Bellator owner Bjorn Rebney was also on the call and he said he would be part of the MMAAA in an advisory, support role. GSP, Velasquez and Dillashaw are all former UFC champions.

"Every time we fight, we're afraid," St-Pierre said. "This is a different fight. I know a lot of us are afraid. It's time to step up, do the right thing."

 

The three goals for the MMAAA will be earning a settlement from the UFC for current and past fighters, bring the revenue disparity from just 8 percent to 50 percent for fighters, and to negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement with the UFC.

 

"I would have assumed that if the UFC had reached the level of success they have, the fighters would not be left behind," Kennedy said.

 

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.

 

"I know a lot of fighters want to remain anonymous," St-Pierre said. "I'm telling you guys, Come see us. It's time to stand together."

Rebney said that St-Pierre's lawyer, James Quinn, is also part of the MMAAA team. Quinn was counsel on antitrust cases against both the NFL and NBA, which led to players earning free agency in both sports.

 

St-Pierre, Velasquez, Kennedy and Dillashaw are all represented by Creative Artists Agency, a rival talent firm to new UFC owner WME-IMG. Rebney said that CAA is not backing the MMA Athletes Association, but supporting its athletes. He took aim at WME-IMG, saying the first thing the conglomerate should have done was fly all the UFC fighters out and apologize to how they've been treated.

 

The UFC has not contacted by anyone yet from the MMAAA, Rebney said, and he added that he doesn't see a reason to do that yet. Rebney said he's been working on this for two years.

"MMA was very good to me and it's an opportunity, I think, to dramatically improve the sport," Rebney said. "We're not going to have MMA as a sport unless these things change."

The MMAAA now joins the Professional Fighters Association (PFA) and the MMA Fighters Association (MMAFA) as groups currently trying to organize fighters. The PFA, headed by baseball superagent Jeff Borris, wants a full-fledged union for UFC fighters, while the MMAFA is focused on bringing the Ali Act, which protects boxers federally, to MMA.

 

 

As plenty have mentioned, it's weird having Rebney as the face of this, seeing the negative reputation he managed to build up while in Bellator.

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Leslie Smith & Lucus Middlebrook (Diaz's lawyer) have left the original PFA because they named names and conditions before they were meant too.

 

Besides Cain who is barely fit & Cerone they can do fine without the rest of them, GSP hasn't fought in 3 years, nobody cares about Tim Kennedy or TJ Dillashaw, if they start adding guys/girls who aren't represented by CAA then maybe take notice.

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i can't comment on this kind of thing because i really haven't got a clue, but going from what i heard on the MMA Report and a few things i've read this seems like the most legit push for something like this to happen.

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Well a few weeks into the MMAAA and it's turned into a slight farce. It's come out that many had no clue of Rebney's involvement, which has turned many fighters off. In turn, Rebney has done nothing but make this about Dana v "Bjork", which Dana loves because he gets to evade the important questions by slagging him back. Rebney has slowed it way down in recent weeks, but his ego has got the better of him and he's done a tremendous job letting the air out of his own balloon.

 

You've also have Cowboy realising what rubbish it is and he decided to turn his back on the MMAAA after Dana had a word.

 

Be interesting to see how they get back on track.

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By the sounds of it, a number of fighters were in his position, which is mad. Particularly with Rebney being such a public part of it.

 

Luke Thomas had a number of great suggestions on how they could have used the poisonous Rebney without negating their momentum (mainly, Rebney shouldn't be front and center). Needless to say the implemented none of them and instead you had this awful name calling back and forth between Rebney and White, which made it seem like a bit of a joke - they have GSP and Velasquez on board, FFS!

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