The concept of an MMA fighters union is one that has seemingly been discussed since the first days of the Zuffa takeover, yet has made next to no actual progress in the time since. Even as legends of the sport like Randy Couture have come out in support of one and former fighters like Nate Quarry and Cung Le have taken to legal action to try and force one into existence, a fighter’s union has remained as elusive as CM Punk’s UFC debut.
With the notoriously anti-union Fertitta brothers no longer running the show after the sale of the UFC, however, the time for a fighter’s union has never been more perfect. And wouldn’t you know it, a group of like-minded, highly influential names from all around the sports world have organized to form just that.
Dubbed The Professional Fighters Association (PFA), the group announced its plans to get recognition for an official MMA fighter’s union in. With longtime baseball agent Jeff Borris — best known for representing such clients as Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson — at the head of the organization and labor attorney Lucas Middlebrook (aka Nick Diaz’s lawyer and counsel for the Major League Soccer referees union, NBA referees union and the unions for Southwest Airlines employees) and economist Andrew Zimbalist following suit, the PFZ has already received support from the likes of the NBA Player’s Association (NBAPA), the MLB Player’s Association, and the NHLPA and NFLPA among others.
According to a press release sent out this morning, the PFA will be attempting to legitimize a player’s union through the National Labor Relations Act, a 1935 law that aimed to “protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.”
“PFA will not only be a union of fighters, but it will be governed solely by fighters,” the release (via MMAFighting) said. “It is the fighters who will control their own futures. The scales have been tipped in favor of the UFC for too long. It is time for the fighters, the one’s responsible for the UFC’s success, to receive their equal share.”
Additionally, MMAJunkie is reporting that New York-based law firm Lichten and Bright — known to represent city government workers in employment disputes — recently sent out a letter promising to contact “several hundred UFC fighters” about representation in what I’m going to preemptively declare “The Oncoming Union Wars.”
Talk about a game-changer. It’s obviously too early to tell what effect the PFA will actually have on moving a fighter’s union forward, but one thing’s for sure: Ari Emanuel is about to have one big mess on his hands.