When UFC women’s bantamweight Aspen Ladd missed weight at yesterday’s early weigh-ins for her match-up with Leslie Smith at tonight’s UFC Atlantic City, the bout was scratched from the event when Smith declined to accept the fight.
But as we found out in the hours after the fight’s cancellation, it had a lot more consequences than just that.
Smith admitted that she was tempted to take the fight while speaking to MMA Fighting, but that it would have been against the many values and principles she stands for as a leading voice of working towards improving fighter pay and treatment in the UFC. So while Ladd would have been forced to give her 20 percent of her purse, an amount that only added up to $2,400, Smith declined the fight after having signed an agreement with the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB) that she would receive her show money of $31,000 whether she fought or not since she had weighed in at 135.4 pounds.
She felt that taking the fight would have been purely out of pride, just the situation she believes has gotten MMA fighters into the oppressive position they currently face:
“I considered fighting Aspen anyway, purely out of pride. And another chance to showcase my skills in the Octagon. But if I had done that, it would have been purely pride. And I would have been fighting for free since I was already getting paid the money. Fighting for free out of pride is everything that I have been speaking out against. It’s not everything — there’s more to it. The manipulation of the fighters through pride was something that I felt pretty strongly about. So I’m not fighting her, because I don’t feel like I should fight for free.”
Things took a turn from there, however, when Smith revealed she told the UFC, with whom she’s had a highly-documented standoff with over her labor rights work, that she would take the fight on the condition they extend her contract after her last fight was up versus Ladd.
Instead, they chose to pay Smith her show and win money for the fight and not extend her contract:
“I figured I had some leverage in the situation,” Smith said. “I told the UFC that I would be willing to take the fight as long as they extended my contract. They did not want to extend my contract. Instead, they said they would pay me my win bonus in addition to my show money and that would fulfill the fight on my contract and they would not be extending it.”
With her involvement in the growing labor issue as the president of Project Spearhead seeking to prove if fighters are indeed independent contractors or actual employees looming over her head, she stated she feels like she was paid off:
“It feels like the UFC is paying me off to go away,” Smith said.