In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Couture straight up asked the question. (H/T MMA Fighting)
“Why is Jake Paul the one to step up and poke Dana and shine a light on what’s going on and the difference between our sports?”
Couture continued, “If it takes Jake Paul to run his mouth and get that done, then great. As long as it gets done. It just seems kind of crazy to me that it’s coming from there. And we as athletes in mixed martial arts can’t come together and can’t hold these promoters to a higher standard and create the transparency that we need in the sport.”
Couture has never been shy about addressing issues that plague the sport that he helped make a global phenomenon. He’s also never shied away from criticizing other fighters. He feels that one, in particular, had the opportunity to make the fighter pay issue a hot topic.
“”The guy that really had a chance to shine a light on it was Conor McGregor,” Couture explained. “He got a boxing license. As soon as he got a boxing license, he rendered his UFC contract null and void. He had the protections of the Muhammad Ali Act when he became an official boxer. With that boxing number, and he chose to bring Dana White and company back into that fight when he could have done all that on his own. Kept all that money to himself and shined a light on the problem in mixed martial arts.”
The Muhammad Ali Act, commonly referred to as the Ali Act, is a U.S. federal law passed in 2000. It halted widespread abuse (i.e., exploitation, rigging of bouts, unfair mismatches) of licensed boxers by promoters.
The law (here in its entirety) covers various aspects of the boxing business, including protection from coercive contracts, disclosure of fighter payment/contracts, and conflict of interests.
Couture believes that either lobbying for a similar law or simply amending the Ali Act would provide MMA fighters more legal ground. But that is only part of what Couture believes will bring about change.
“I think there’s three things going on,” Couture said. “The first thing is obviously the class action lawsuit. That is the long play. It’s going to take a while to settle all of that. The affidavits are in, it’s been certified as a class. If they’re successful in proving their case, it’s going to force the biggest promotion in this sport anyways, the UFC, to do business differently. That’s the first scenario.”
“The second scenario is the MMAFA, the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association, and I’m part of that group, have been lobbying to see the Ali Act amended. Just change the definition from boxer to mixed martial arts or combative sports athlete. Then we enjoy the same transparency and restrictions on promotions and promoters that boxers have been enjoying since 1996. Now the UFC is lobbying very, very hard and spending a lot of money to keep that from being voted on. It’s gotten us tossed out of the Energy and Commerce Commission, where it was originally voted and voted in. They’re doing their thing to keep it from being a vote and being voted on.”
Lastly, Couture believes that better competition to the sports biggest promotion, the UFC, helps to level the playing field.
“The third thing is organizations like the PFL that have taken the sport and put it in a regular sports format, that are paying the athletes very well,” Couture stated. “A million-dollar purse at the end of each season with a new champion. I think that’s another avenue as well. They’re creating an athlete’s advisory board and doing some things some of the other promotions aren’t doing. I think that’s a third potential to see some change in the sport.”
“We’re obviously attracting a lot of big names and top names from the sport that want a shot at that money and want a chance to know when their fight is going to be and not have to worry about it. So I think those are all three things that are a positive change in our sport.”
Do you believe that Randy Couture has identified everything that needs to happen for fighters to see more money?