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Attorney: Leslie Smith case against UFC now in ‘holding pattern’ after change

Leslie Smith on the scale Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Not so fast.

On Friday morning, Leslie Smith’s attorney Lucas Middlebrook told MMA Fighting that he was informed by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional investigator that Smith’s case against the UFC was deemed to have merit and the NLRB would be filing an official complaint.

As it turns out, it won’t be that cut and dried.

Middlebrook said things changed just hours later, after news broke about the impending complaint. The labor lawyer said that the NLRB Region 4 investigator has now told him that it has now been decided that the case will have to go through the NLRB’s Division of Advice in Washington, D.C., before any decisions are made.

Smith is claiming the UFC demonstrated unfair labor practices in letting her go in April and is charging that UFC fighters are employees and not independent contractors.

Now, Middlebrook said, the case is in a “holding pattern.” Middlebrook believes the UFC flexed its muscle in the U.S. capitol to get things altered.

“It is my opinion that the UFC, unable to prevail on the merits, has now commenced the pulling of political strings to evade responsibility for violating the [National Labor Relations Act],” Middlebrook said. “This only means delay, as Leslie will take all legal measures necessary to ensure Region 4’s initial determination stands.”

The UFC did not immediately return a request for comment Friday night. The UFC’s outside law firm, Morgan Lewis, also did not return an inquiry. An NLRB spokesperson told MMA Fighting that it could not comment beyond what is currently publicly available about the case.

Smith, 35, parted ways with the UFC in April on the same day she weighed in for a scheduled fight with Aspen Ladd at UFC Atlantic City. Ladd missed weight and Smith learned that she would be paid for the bout — whether or not she fought — because she fulfilled her contractual obligations as set forth by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB).

With only one fight remaining on her contract, Smith said she told the UFC she would take the fight if they extended her deal. Instead, Smith said she was told that she could have her show money and win bonus and the UFC would consider that a fulfillment of its contractual obligations to her.

Smith feels like she was jettisoned by the UFC because of her active role in fighter organization. The California native is the president of Project Spearhead, which is attempting to get UFC fighters to sign authorization cards, which could trigger a decision on whether or not they are independent contractors or employees. Smith is vehement that UFC fighters are employees and she is hoping to start a fighter union.

The UFC reportedly has a different version of events than Smith with regards to her ouster, but has not made any public comments about the matter.

Smith filed her charge against the UFC with NLRB Region 4, based in Philadelphia, in May.

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