The UFC Responds To Talks Of Possible Fighter Union Organizing

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With the Reebok sponsorship deal for the UFC fighters being a hot topic in the sport of MMA nowadays. The talks of Unions have risen.

The Reebok deal has taken away the right for fighters to get their own sponsors for their fight gear. Now, Teamsters Local 986 and UNITE HERE’s Culinary Union Local 226 have reached out to some fighters to see if they are interested in forming a union.

The UFC released the following statement to on the matter:

“The modern era of the UFC has seen incredible gains in athlete safety and compensation along with the mainstream success of a once marginalized sport. We are proud of this amazing record and consider it extremely duplicitous that the same labor union that has spent years demeaning UFC athletes, denouncing the sport of mixed martial arts, and doing everything possible to keep MMA out of New York, is now claiming to care about the interests of athletes in the UFC.”

“Indeed, UFC has spent considerable time and effort defending against the outrageous allegations by this local union about athletes who have chosen to compete in the UFC. This is nothing more than the newest brazen tactic in a failing effort to organize culinary workers at a Las Vegas casino. It is shameful that local union leaders would try to use UFC athletes as pawns to advance this hidden agenda.”

“We are proud of our relationship with all athletes who have entered into contracts with the UFC, and we are proud to produce a product that is enjoyed by millions of fans around the world.”

Courtesy of Bloody Elbow, here’s an email from Kirk D. Hendrick, the UFC’s Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, titled “Important Message, that was sent to the fighters, who are under contract with the UFC:

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Dear Athletes,

You may see media reports in the days ahead about some union tactics that are both shameful and pathetic. The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Teamsters union allegedly have devised a plan to “organize MMA fighters.” The reason this is pathetic is that the Culinary Union is the exact same union that has spent years, as well as the money from its dues-paying members, to do everything imaginable to keep MMA out of New York and to run a campaign telling UFC fans, sponsors and government officials to not support the professional sport that all of you compete in. They even created a website called “” to try and hurt the UFC, the sport of MMA and the very same athletes that they suddenly claim to care so much about.

Now, they are making more accusations against the UFC and they apparently believe that if MMA athletes would support the unions’ organizing efforts, sign union cards and agree to pay dues to the union every month, then the world of MMA would be a better place. Not only is such a mission misguided, it hides the unions’ only real interest, which is organizing workers at Station Casinos in Las Vegas, NV. They hope that by applying pressure to the UFC that somehow it will increase their chances in Las Vegas. Certainly, we will admit that their old tactics haven’t been working because they have been harassing Station Casinos, its employees and customers for over 15 years and they have yet to organize even one Station Casinos’ property.

There is a lot more that we could go into about these unions and their tactics, but for the time being, I’ll just point out the most obvious and illogical fact about this latest tactic. As a matter of law, unions can only organize employees, and as we all know, MMA athletes are independent contractors—not employees. You would think that union leaders would have done that little bit of research before issuing a press release.

On behalf of everyone in the UFC, please know that we consider all of you to be amazing athletes and we are proud to have created a worldwide platform where you can compete in the sport you love and be compensated for it. For that reason, we will not sit by and let a group that has publicly demonstrated that it wants to destroy our beloved sport try to do so by lying to you. We will fight them with the truth and we will win.


Kirk D. Hendrick

Zuffa, LLC, dba Ultimate Fighting Championship

Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer

The fact that Mr. Hendrick has the guts to say that “MMA athletes are independent contractors—not employees” but the UFC won’t let them work for any other promotion but them and force them into a sponsorship deal, is laughable.

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What do you think? Should fighters form a union? Should they not? Let us know in comment area below.