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Bill of Rights For Mixed Martial Artists: Making Sense of it All

(Who knew Tito had such good penmanship?)

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…

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Cagepotato Comments

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Shaky- March 7, 2012 at 7:23 am
Murrica...Obama..Constitution....rabble rabble rabble

So glad I come from a place where we aren't tied down to a legal document that is 250 years old...having said that a local byelaw in Chester means that I can shoot a Welshman with a crossbow from the castle walls after sunset...ok, we have 'no murder' law that kinda overules that.

I suppose the irony of my comment is the fact that we still have an archaic governing institution ruling our country - but then again I say 'ruling' very loosely - the royal family, unlike the constitution, has no real power over the way we govern or live our lives - great for tourism though!
RwilsonR- March 6, 2012 at 5:38 pm
Not sure exactly what argument your map was supposed to refute Sho Nuff, but a couple of problems with it. First, it is way out of date (2004). A more modern version shows a much more even split amongst red and blue, with the top 4 being blue. Second, looking at straight tax dollar expenditure per capita per state is very misleading. For one thing, yes, it is true that wealth concentrations are in CA, NY, and the Northeast. With a progressive tax system, the wealthiest will pay more. But with a straight federal tax dollars paid to tax dollars received analysis, you ignore military investment and salaries in those states which fall under aggregate tax dollars spent. It also ignores states in which much of the land is owned and managed by the federal government with relatively low populations, and high populations of federal workers (military or otherwise) like Alaska, Wyoming, or Nevada. A more accurate map would be one cataloguing federal entitlement expenditures per state, and look at totals per state, not per capita. In the same year as the map you provided, one third of all federal spending went to five states - CA, NY, FL, TX, and PA. In the end, even though the distribution by political bent is relatively equal on a more recent map, it doesn't mean I'm happy any of the states are receiving federal tax dollars in the amounts they currently are. And you are completely wrong about ccman's point about union states doing poorly, and he is very much right. The two greatest success stories of this recession are TX and ND.
Sho Nuff- March 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm
RwilsonR, that was the biggest load of nonsense I've read in awhile, congratulations. You really drank the koolaid didn't you? You can't even say "union" without saying "coercion" afterward, you've been programmed. Don't worry, it happens easily to simple minded fools like you.

And ccman: "It is not by accident the states in the worst shape are union states."

That is just demonstrably wrong. The states hardest hit by the recession have been among the reddest states in the country (they also take the most federal aid and pay in the least).
BaghdadBob- March 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm
Yeah, more regulation and paperwork will really improve things. Nothing fosters competition and lowers costs like check-the-box legal rules and subsequent endless litigation.
ccman- March 6, 2012 at 11:39 am
Sigh. Yup must comment. To start, a union with an ax to Gringa proposing in an area they have no interest outside their unrelated issue is a red flag to big to ignore.
Further unions are the buggy whip of labor, there has not been a single positive contribution from one nor purpose in 40 years. Fact; if you demand to much for a company to continue to do business the company goes away. It is not by accident the states in the worst shape are union states. Auto executives greed was the icing on the auto workers unions 60 year greed cake killing Michigan. Manufacturing? Moved south, thank Clinton and nafta which UNIONS largely endorsed and paid for. Look at the teachers union vs wash. DC school district for exactly how much unions care about the workers.
Next, you SIGHNED A FUCKING CONTRACT. If I hire a contractor to build a bar, and it becomes the new 'spot' and does 200k a week you can't decide your contribution is worth more. You were paid the agreed sum. This is where unions fail. If we negotiate an agreed fee, anything else is generosity, not deserved or owed. If I lose my ass you sure aren't ponying up my losses.
This spoiled 'owed' ideal is the lowest common denominator crutch for those that can't riding on the shoulders of those who can.
The12ozCurls- March 6, 2012 at 11:02 am
It all started with "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair dammit . . . See Mr.Shane, I paid attention in 11th grade history class even if I was loaded half the time
RwilsonR- March 6, 2012 at 10:09 am
Sho Nuff is the one with no knowledge of history. While unions have occasionally coerced businesses into providing a few things we enjotht ad more worker benefits have come from robust competition, and the idea that unions were somehow responsible for an end to child labor, exhaustive and dangerous working conditions, health benefits, etc., is a complete misread of history. Neither labor unions nor the legislation they drove was the impetus for the end to these things in this country, and in most cases the problem was largely solved before the unions came to coerce, and in many cases they prolonged adverse conditions by hindering prosperity by putting up artificial roadblocks to success. By the time child labor laws were pushed through, child labor had largely been eliminated in the US. Same for working conditions. What eliminated these things was wealth and success. The primary motivation for poor working conditions and child labor is poverty. Children are made to work out of necessity, and working conditions are poor relative to a business' success and ability to compete in a market. The only solution to these historically has been wealth and prosperity. The sooner a society achieves greater wealth, and businesses achieve greater prosperity, these conditions change. It has not historically aligned to union coercion or legislation, and union propaganda surrounding this is horribly inaccurate, easily disproved with basic data points, and doesn't hold up to even the most rudimentary understanding of economics. If you want better conditions and workers making more money, support a good business and a good product, not a union.
johnhayte- March 6, 2012 at 10:09 am
The issue about medical insurance could be addressed with the formation a fighters union or association. Every member would pay dues, some of which could go toward some sort of group medical plan. Though this is problematic for UFC fighters who already have coverage . . . maybe they could opt out and only fighters from other promotions without coverage would pay in to the plan.
The12ozCurls- March 6, 2012 at 10:07 am
This article is too well written for me to make a feeble vagina or fap joke - whether you agree or not Moles did a damn fine job.
agentsmith- March 6, 2012 at 9:44 am
"Dana White has been saying for years that “it’s up to them” if they want to form a union."
Of course it is. Since when has any union been formed by the employer? It'd be an obvious conflict of interest even if they were willing to do so.
RwilsonR- March 6, 2012 at 9:43 am
Not a bad article Moles. Personally, I would say the only "right" anyone should have when it comes to engaging with a private company is whether or not they freely choose to engage in a contractual/employment agreement with them. Beyond that, the private company should be able to run their company as they see fit.
thenutman69321- March 6, 2012 at 9:29 am
I liked the article, even though I didn't agree with a good amount of your views about the amendments. That was until I read your stupid comments about Obama and the 2nd amendment (not a huge fan of him but saying he's attacking the 2nd amendment is just an outright lie and you link to an article chalk full of lies) and unions (again not a huge fan but you comment is ignorant at best), stick to MMA and keep you ill informed moronic political views out of it.
xrefused- March 6, 2012 at 9:11 am
Not all unions are the same, some of them are too corrupted by outside interests but the idea that workers can organize is always good. Some unions like the IWW have actually fought for good things but faced conflict from other unions who were really intertwined with corporate interests (UMWA). But it's true that there are things about this bill that should be more practical and able to be amended
J. Jones- March 6, 2012 at 8:41 am
^ Talk about drawing your own conclusions. I never said anything even close to what you just claimed I did. I come from an area of poverty, and am simply not a fan of unions. My parents made me work from the time I was physically able, and for whoever would allow it, to earn my place at the dinner table. I worked hard to get where I am today, that is all I said. If you don't agree with my beliefs, that's fine. But don't put words in my mouth.
Pen Fifteen- March 6, 2012 at 8:34 am
Seriously, if you think that every rich person in this country got that way by hard work and that every person with a shitty job is just lazy, you are a fucking idiot.
Pen Fifteen- March 6, 2012 at 8:31 am
Good point J. Jones, because so many people in this country work for their parents, not for some greedy rich fuck who could give two shits whether or not your working conditions are safe and your pay is enough for you to live on.
J. Jones- March 6, 2012 at 7:55 am
Hey Sho Nuff, have you ever worked in the septic business? I have since I was 13. That must have been my parents way of spoiling me, along with the fact that I did it for less than minimum wage for the first four or five years. Entitled my ass.
Sho Nuff- March 6, 2012 at 7:42 am
"Thank God someone recognizes unions for what they truly are"

I do. Unions are the only reason you haven't been working since you were 5, that we have the 40 hour work weak, sick leave, overtime pay, safe working conditions, a middle class. Only entitled, spoiled idiots with no knowledge of the history of their own country hate on unions.
SocraticMethod- March 6, 2012 at 6:30 am
This was excellent. Well done.
ExpectJesusBro- March 6, 2012 at 6:28 am
"unions generally protect the lazy and untalented anyway." hahaha. Exactly!
Only the lazy and untalented would disagree...
ExpectJesusBro- March 6, 2012 at 6:25 am
Damn nice article, brotha. Not much to change that you haven't already mentioned...
J. Jones- March 6, 2012 at 6:21 am
Thank God someone recognizes unions for what they truly are. Nice article.
blackboxmma- March 6, 2012 at 6:21 am
Are you trying to give Dana White a good laugh so he will like this site?
KarmaAteMyCat- March 6, 2012 at 6:12 am
Holy shit. Nice Job bro.