Today will go down in history as the day Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA) officially launched. What significance that will have years from now is anybody’s guess.
Former Bellator president Bjorn Rebney led Wednesday’s conference call featuring former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, former UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez, former UFC bantamweight title holder TJ Dillashaw, UFC middleweight Tim Kennedy and UFC veteran Donald Cerrone to discuss the intentions of their new association – NOT to be confused with a union.
MMAAA’s goal is to receive better treatment from the UFC for all of its fighters – past, present and future. They are seeking a 50 percent share of revenue, as opposed to the roughly 8 percent they presently receive, health benefit packages comparable to other major sports leagues and compensation for current and former UFC fighters for lost income.
“These athletes are risking more for less than any pro athlete on earth. They are paid pennies on the dollar,” Rebney said, who claimed he paid as much as 53 percent of revenue when he was running Bellator.
Decisions for MMAAA will strictly be made by the board, which consists of the five fighters. Although Rebney fielded the majority of the questions during today’s two-hour call, with Kennedy and St-Pierre following behind in second and third, respectively, emphasized that MMAAA is an association and not a union because it could take up to five years in court to see any movement on union activity, and the end result would likely have the UFC winning.
Rebney, who is not very well liked or respected in most MMA circles, will act only as an “adviser.” He said he has not and will not be paid by MMAAA. Rebney said funding for the Orange County-based association has come from unnamed people “stepping up.”
The conference call’s operator said there were over 100 “reporters” on the call. UFC flyweight Ian McCall was selected to ask a question.
“What are you going to do to get other fighters on board?” McCall inquired.
“Do you want to see change? Do you want to see something different for your future?” Kennedy responded, before giving McCall his email address.
Clearly, the first hurdle MMAAA faces is getting fearful fighters scared of facing repercussions from the UFC to hop on the bandwagon. Most of the board addressed the significant concern by stating it was time to “take a stand and do the right thing.”
St-Pierre was asked how important it would be to get UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor, the game’s biggest superstar, to join them in their plight. A passionate GSP responded with a resounding “of course” it would help to have the UFC’s biggest name attached to their cause, but reiterated that even the smallest names also matter.
Interestingly, Cerrone and Kennedy will both be fighting in 10 days at UFC 206 and Dillashaw and Velasquez will be competing at UFC 207 next month. It will be fascinating to see how they are received upon returning to work.
During the call, there wasn’t much Twitter activity from active UFC fighters. Veteran Cole Miller, who hasn’t been shy about expressing the level of mistreatment he’s received from the UFC, posted the most interesting tweet at the time of publication:
— Cole Miller 🇺🇸 (@colemillerATT) November 30, 2016
Disgraced former UFC light heavyweight Stephan Bonnar issued the funniest tweet regarding the money he received for his historic war with Forrest Griffin at “The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale”:
Damn. These stupid fighters getting hosed!! Wait a second, that's right I got 5k for the fight with Forrest https://t.co/ggEp62BcRg
— Stephan Bonnar (@StephanBonnar) November 30, 2016
Bonnar reiterated that, while he did receive a “six-figure UFC contract” for his performance against Griffin, it was paid out over three years and nine fights after losing to Griffin.
Rebney, who has had a longstanding beef with UFC president Dana White, ended the media session by calling the UFC an “egregious, predatory monopoly.”
UFC fighters griping about pay isn’t anything new. However, after a group led by WME-IMG purchased the planet’s premier mixed martial arts promotion in July for $4.2 billion, fighters now more than ever believe they deserve a bigger piece of the pie.
Best of luck with that…