A group headlined by three former UFC champions announced the formation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association on Wednesday afternoon.
The announcement was made on a conference call that included former UFC champions Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez and T.J. Dillashaw, UFC fighters Donald Cerrone and Tim Kennedy and former Bellator chairman Bjorn Rebney.
“We’re gonna change the face of an entire industry and sport today,” Kennedy said. “We’re here to never leave somebody behind.”
This is the latest attempt by fighters to establish a collective bargaining unit to increase their share of revenue and establish a long-term health care plan more comparable to what other sports have.
Rebney laid out a three-point plan involving a settlement for current and former fighters, an increase in the fighters’ share of revenue to 50 percent and to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement comparable with MLB or the NFL.
Fighter pay long has been a talking point for UFC fighters and MMA fighters in general. St-Pierre said UFC fighters receive around eight percent of the revenue brought in by the UFC.
Former UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta told CNN at the end of 2015 that the promotion was expected to bring in around $600 million in revenue for that year.
“Most other sports, it’s 50/50 promoter/athlete,” said St-Pierre, who hasn’t fought since vacating his welterweight title and “stepping away” from MMA three years ago.
The UFC has not yet commented on the formation of the MMAAA.
The UFC was sold to WME-IMG, a powerful Hollywood talent agency, for $4 billion in July. Such a value, the highest paid for a sports franchise, helped rekindle the issue among fighters and in MMA circles. Rebney said the association is focused on the “WME-IMG/UFC conglomerate” now and not other MMA promotions such as Bellator and World Series of Fighting.
“I know a lot of fighters are afraid, but it’s time to step up and do the right thing,” St-Pierre said. “We should never be afraid to stand for the virtues, for what’s right.”
Cerrone, who fights next week against Matt Brown at UFC 206 in Toronto, said he fears what’s next for him in regard to taking a stand against the UFC.
“I’m here hopefully standing for the 500 fighters in the UFC,” Cerrone said. “There’s still fear, but it needs to be done.”
Rebney made it clear that this is not a union but rather an association.
“A union is the worst possible option today for UFC fighters because it delays everything another four or five years,” Rebney said.
UFC fighters are considered independent contractors, not employees, making the formation of a union rather difficult under labor laws.
“The power that we have is the power of the voices in this room and the megaphone that most of the athletes in this room speak from,” Rebney said.
Kennedy encouraged fighters to reach out to him and others on the board. He said the goal for the MMAAA is to “work with the UFC” and help grow the sport of mixed martial arts.
“It’s in unity,” Kennedy added about how this group expects to gain power.
Kennedy said the five fighters who took part in the conference call will serve as the initial board members making decisions for the association.
“We’re not going to be bought to shut ourselves up,” St-Pierre said. “We’re not going to let any fighters down. We’re here to stay.”