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Conor McGregor on the state of unionization in MMA: ‘There needs to be something’

Conor McGregor An Experience With...

When the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA) held its grand unveiling back in November, one of the group’s biggest names — former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre — made an impassioned plea for Conor McGregor to join the war for fighter’s rights.

Months have passed since that first conference call and McGregor has remained largely silent about the MMAAA. But the outspoken Irishman has still been paying attention, and over the weekend, McGregor revealed that St-Pierre’s words left him feeling cold.

“I’m watching this union thing, it like a press conference, and I’m like, what the f*ck is going on here?” McGregor said during an hour-long interview in Manchester. “They’re standing up, they’re all wearing the same t-shirt. They’re saying, ‘Conor, please. Conor, please, you know what’s right. Help us out, Conor.’ And Georges is saying, ‘Conor’s a good person. I know he gets paid well, but he doesn’t get paid enough.’ And I’m like, what the f*ck are you talking about?

“The only reason you’re standing in the middle of that union is because you (St-Pierre) couldn’t get the deal you want. You’re the fakest of everyone up there.”

St-Pierre has increasingly been a voice for change in mixed martial arts since he left the sport in 2013 as a record-breaking UFC welterweight champion. He joined the cause of the MMAAA in late-2016 after failing to come to terms with the UFC on a return, instead adding his name to the five-fighter MMAAA executive board comprised of Tim Kennedy, Donald Cerrone, and former UFC champions T.J. Dillashaw and Cain Velasquez.

Former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney also appeared on the introductory MMAAA conference in an advisory role, although Kennedy has since said that he regrets that decision as Rebney’s participation grew into a story unto itself.

St-Pierre’s targeting of McGregor for the MMAAA was understandable. McGregor stands today as one the biggest stars the sport has ever created, a two-division champion who has shattered nearly every ratings and financial record in mixed martial arts while headlining four of the five highest-selling UFC pay-per-views of all-time. But while McGregor was put off by the MMAAA’s initial approach, he still threw his support behind the need for a union or association in MMA.

“As fighters, as a person who’s dedicated everything, and as a person who can retire now comfortably, I look at situations that my peers are in and people who are signed to the promotion, there needs to be something,” McGregor said.

“There needs to be something, but that wasn’t it. That was a bunch of... I don’t know what that was. That was like a failed promoter, your man what’s-his-name (Rebney) — that was like a failed promoter, Georges was up there angry because he couldn’t get the deal that he wanted. It was just the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

A myriad of groups have stepped forward in recent years in an effort to bring fighters together under one umbrella of representation.

The Professional Fighters Association (PFA), a fledgling organization led by former baseball agent Jeff Boras, sought to unionize UFC fighters in 2016. Likewise, the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association (MMAFA), under the direction of Arizona-based attorney Rob Maysey, has campaigned for a variety of fighters’ rights issues since its creation in 2009, including an amendment to support MMA athletes through the Ali Act. The addition of the MMAAA in November added another group to that list.

So while McGregor on Saturday stopped short of joining forces with any organization in particular, he reiterated that he does agree with the broader conversation that something needs to be done to improve the conditions in MMA for his fellow martial artists.

“There needs to be something, I just don’t know what it is,” McGregor said. “I’m focusing on me. I’m focusing on my family’s security, my family’s financial security. That’s all I can do. So I when I saw that, I just thought it was the biggest, fakest load of sh*t I’ve ever seen in my life. So, I don’t know. I wish everyone well, but you need to focus on yourself. You need to stop putting your hand out. Everyone’s hands are out, everyone wants things for free. You’ve got to put in the work, you’ve got to grind, you’ve got to go through the struggle, and you’ve got to get it.

“You deserve it, go get it. Don’t complain, don’t cry. Get the f*ck up and go get it. And a lot of people don’t do that. A lot of people cry and complain and put their hand out and beg, and it never goes well. So, I don’t know. There needs to be something. I just don’t know what that is.”

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