Five high-profile UFC fighters are launching a fighters association.
The group, headlined by all-time great Georges St-Pierre, will be called the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association and will focus on evening the playing field between fighters and the UFC, it was announced on a media conference call Wednesday.
St-Pierre was joined on the call by Tim Kennedy, Cain Velasquez, Donald Cerrone and T.J. Dillashaw. Those five fighters will make up the association's first board. Former Bellator owner Bjorn Rebney was also on the call and he said he would be part of the MMAAA in an advisory, support role. GSP, Velasquez and Dillashaw are all former UFC champions.
"Every time we fight, we're afraid," St-Pierre said. "This is a different fight. I know a lot of us are afraid. It's time to step up, do the right thing."
The three goals for the MMAAA will be earning a settlement from the UFC for current and past fighters, bring the revenue disparity from just 8 percent to 50 percent for fighters, and to negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement with the UFC.
"I would have assumed that if the UFC had reached the level of success they have, the fighters would not be left behind," Kennedy said.
Rebney, who referred to the UFC as an "egregious, predatory monopoly" made it clear that the MMAAA is not a union. A union, he said, would delay all the things the fighters want. Rebney said the unity of an association would give the fighters real power against the UFC, even if it's not a legal union in the eyes of the National Labor Relations Board. Rebney brought up a labor strike as a possibility as a way to take action against the UFC, though Velasquez and Kennedy both said they would not want it to come to that.
"I know a lot of fighters want to remain anonymous," St-Pierre said. "I'm telling you guys, Come see us. It's time to stand together."
Rebney said that St-Pierre's lawyer, James Quinn, is also part of the MMAAA team. Quinn was counsel on antitrust cases against both the NFL and NBA, which led to players earning free agency in both sports.
St-Pierre, Velasquez, Kennedy and Dillashaw are all represented by Creative Artists Agency, a rival talent firm to new UFC owner WME-IMG. Rebney said that CAA is not backing the MMA Athletes Association, but supporting its athletes. He took aim at WME-IMG, saying the first thing the conglomerate should have done was fly all the UFC fighters out and apologize to how they've been treated.
The UFC has not contacted by anyone yet from the MMAAA, Rebney said, and he added that he doesn't see a reason to do that yet. Rebney said he's been working on this for two years.
"MMA was very good to me and it's an opportunity, I think, to dramatically improve the sport," Rebney said. "We're not going to have MMA as a sport unless these things change."
The MMAAA now joins the Professional Fighters Association (PFA) and the MMA Fighters Association (MMAFA) as groups currently trying to organize fighters. The PFA, headed by baseball superagent Jeff Borris, wants a full-fledged union for UFC fighters, while the MMAFA is focused on bringing the Ali Act, which protects boxers federally, to MMA.