By Jason Moles
A while back, we told you that the Culinary Workers Union was at it again, this time pushing the Nevada State Athletic Commission to pass ‘A Bill of Rights for Professional Mixed Martial Artists.’ After reading the document a time or two, it’s easy to conclude that the “MMA Bill of Rights” is eerily similar to SOPA in that they both look bad on paper and sound even worse when said aloud. Don’t get me wrong, I want the fighters to live long and prosper, but some of the points brought up are laughable. I feel it necessary to shed some light on this proposal while keeping in mind that it could have a major impact for promoters, fighters, and fans alike. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Amendment I: Equal protections for all fighters. – You shall have the same legal protections currently afforded to professional boxers under state and federal law. This includes extending the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000 and its protections against exploitative treatment of boxers to professional mixed-martial arts fighters.
Problem: None, really. Having the promoter disclose how much money was made and who got paid what would be a great thing for fighters come contract renewal time. Additionally, not allowing fighters to be required to sign over future promotional rights just to fight seems reasonable. No real complaints here, it’s an excellent idea.
Amendment II: Right to work. – You shall have the right to sign non-exclusive contracts to participate in any professional mixed martial arts events of your choosing, where such opportunities are available. This right includes the right to refuse to sign exclusive or “automatically renewing” contracts with a promoter that does not guarantee sufficient opportunity for you to fight in professional events and earn a living.
Problem: This sounds brutal, I know, but fighters already have the right not to sign a contract they don’t like. If you don’t like the way it’s worded and cannot compromise, hit the road, jack. It’s clear that the Culinary Union has the UFC’s non-competitive and champion’s clauses in mind here. We could pretty much scratch the second amendment out, kind of like what Obama is doing right now, and the world would continue spinning.
If you’re the promoter, there is no way you want your champion taking a fight in Donofrio MMA and losing to a scrub or getting injured en route to a victory. You have to protect your assets. You also don’t want a guy winning the belt in his last fight, especially if it’s a controversial decision, and then jumping ship because his contract is up and the other promoter will let him do a reality tv show while under contract.
Solution: Promotions offer minimum fight contracts with a severance package being paid to the fighter if the contract is not fulfilled within a certain amount of time. This makes it easier for the promotion to cut dead weight if a guy keeps getting injured while showing that they (kinda) care for the fighter as a person. This also helps the fighter in the event that the promotion is unable (or unwilling) to give the guy fights. All contracts for guys who are “in the mix” will still be automatically renewing, however, the payment terms would still be negotiated upon for the new contract.
Amendment III: Inalienable right to your own name, likeness and image. – You shall have the right to refuse to give any promoter and/or manager the right to your own name, likeness and image beyond the duration of the contract you have with the promoter and/or manager. This right includes the right to participate in professional mixed martial arts events, where such opportunities are available, without being required to sign additional contracts to give the promoter, manager and/or anybody else the right to your own name, likeness and image.
Problem: This fails to help anyone already under contract with Zuffa, and a few that aren’t. Furthermore, if you don’t want to sign over your likeness then don’t sign the papers and go fight somewhere else. Now, had this been worded in a way prohibiting promotions to acquire likeness beyond the duration of the contract, we’d have a completely new argument on our hands — but it’s not.
Solution: It’s not Superstars we’re discussing, fictional characters that have steroids for breakfast and “wrassle” 350 days a year, it’s real men and women whose name, story, and likeness are not fabricated by some creative department. MMA promotions should renegotiate to have the rights to use a fighter’s name, image, and likeness after their contract has ended in exchange for a percentage of the profits from its use, be it a video game, trading cards, or a ‘Best of’ DVD.
Amendment IV: Free market of sponsorships. – You shall have the right to choose your own sponsors outside of any professional mixed martial events in which you participate under a promotional contract. Outside of such events, no promoter shall restrict or prohibit you from signing sponsorship contracts with firms that choose to support you; nor shall any promoter or other entity require you to sponsor a particular product, business, or individual as a condition for participating in a professional mixed martial arts event.
Problem: Since the UFC landed that mega deal with FOX, we’ve seen a few sponsors tossed into body bags, most notably the gun and ammo sponsors. All promotions should have the right to deny a fighter’s request to be sponsored by a company even if they agree to pay the sponsor tax. Don’t agree? Would you want to see a fighters shorts plastered with KKK logos or a slogan so appalling that only Westboro Baptist Church could have written it? Didn’t think so. It’s not just the UFC that doesn’t want that, it’s the NFL too — just take a look at their partnership and endorsement policy. I bet you didn’t know that NFL players are prohibited from doing anything with a long list of BANNED companies, including two of MMA’s favorites, Nutrabolics and BSN.
Solution: Fighters can still make appearances and be a spokesperson for a company in exchange for a paycheck, however, the promotion in which they fight will still have the right from prohibiting any sponsor from being on all clothing and banners for all fights, media workouts, or anything else fight related (i.e. Countdown shows, Talk show appearances, and press conferences).
Amendment V: Transparency of contracts and payments. – You have the right to receive a detailed and written financial accounting, certified by your local athletic commission, of any and all revenues associated with a professional mixed martial arts event in which you participated. The report shall be provided to you by the event promoter in a timely manner and shall include a description of all payments, gifts or benefits the promoter received from the event, including, but not limited to, gate ticket sales, pay-per-view sales, other TV revenues, and other sponsorship payments.
Problem: All promotions will be required to hire someone to carry out these duties, which by the way, are to be done in a “timely manner,” whatever that means. It’s going to take time for the numbers to come in from cable and satellite providers.
Solution: Have the promoters issue all contracted fighters a quarterly summary of the above information, broken down by fight card. This allows the promotion time to get accurate numbers, receive certification from the athletic commission (when applicable) and still let the fighters know how much the company is making.
Take a two-minute water-break, and continue to the next page to read our dissection of amendments 6-10…