“My thoughts concerning the state of Wisconsin repealing the collective bargaining rights of public employees? I’m glad you asked…”
Several recent, seemingly unrelated news stories in the MMA world have shared a common theme- unions. It’s the lobbying efforts of one union, Dana White insists, to blame for the UFC’s failure to gain a foothold in New York. And some pessimists credit a fear of unionized fighters–more than simple altruism–for Zuffa’s decision to provide accident insurance for its fighters. With all of the talk about a potential MMA Fighters Union, we took a moment to ponder who’s likely to throw their hat in the ring for union president…
Frank Shamrock: If you want to know what role “The Legend” has played in the history of our sport, just ask him. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to self-promote, Shamrock has been fighting for his relevancy in the sport ever since he departed from the UFC. His verbal battles with Dana are legendary, even prompting him to start a pseudo non-profit organization to call him out- that’s a devotion to hatred I can only hope to know. As a self-proclaimed champion of the downtrodden and sworn enemy of the Zuffa regime, Shamrock’s role as kingpin in a fighter union would finally balance the scales of power in his rivalry and allow him to resume his long-abandoned place at the top of the fighter chain.
Big John McCarthy: Fighter safety was little more than an oxymoron when Big John started officiating. Since those early days he’s played a leading role in looking out for the folks that put it all on the line. Outside of the cage, he lobbied to make sure that the Unified Rules were fair to fighters and fans alike. It’s no secret that Dana has had a grudge against him, which coincided perfectly with his inability to get re-licensed in Nevada. Big John has found several ways to earn an income in the sport without donning latex gloves, including running his own gym and serving as a analyst on The Fight Network, so maybe an opportunity to protect fighters in a new capacity would be of interest to him as well.
Chael Sonnen: What is there to explain, really? The guy has an addiction to corruption. He’s shown a clear desire to hold office, but remarkably proved too shady for a job in politics. Chael is never afraid to take the bully pulpit and hammer out a firm stance on a controversial topic, and when pinned down to a losing position he’s willing to say whatever is necessary to weasel his way out the hole he’s dug. He’s no stranger to cutting corners and skimming money from the top, which makes him a natural to head up a union. If he was willing to involve his mother in a real estate scheme, there’s little doubt he’d throw his “Uncle Dana” under the bus for a quick buck. Unless he seriously considers ditching a couple of his more nefarious personalities, he’s unlikely to glove up for awhile, and with his numerous other careers on hold this seems like a perfect fit for his unique set of morals.
Randy Couture: A true icon of the sport, “The Natural” has been involved in many of the UFC’s most memorable fights both inside the Octagon and inside the courtroom. Together they’ve made a lot of money, but following multiple break ups they’ve always seemed more reluctant bedfellows than chummy business partners. We’re only a few weeks into his latest retirement and Couture is already investing in new MMA ventures. With a stable of fighters at his side and as an obvious leader in our community he could no doubt foster support for a union throughout its ranks. He was willing to fight Zuffa in court to gain freedom from what he considered to be an unfair contract, and was very vocal about what he considered to be a lack of appropriately large paydays; maybe the time has come for him to walk that road once more.
Tito Ortiz: Even when it seemed suspiciously like he was simply looking out for himself, Tito always made it clear that he was actually fighting Dana White for every fighter’s rights. With his career in the UFC teetering on extinction, even Tito must realize his days as a fighter are numbered. He’s talked about the need for a fighter’s union—and his desire to run it–for years now, and with no other organization able to afford his hefty price tag his options will be limited. So what characteristics would you look for in a fighter union president? Eloquence? Check. Strong business acumen? Check. A trustworthy circle of friends to form his cabinet? Check.
BJ Penn: With the many turns that his career has taken, it’s clear that he’s unlikely to achieve the ambitious title of “greatest fighter to ever live”, and that may be a tough pill to swallow for a megalomaniac like Penn. Throughout his entire career, BJ has sought to dictate the terms. When Joe Rogan attempts to get his thoughts after the fight, he directs you to go to BJPenn.com to get his take. Before conducting an interview with him, you have to confirm that you do indeed like him very much. He even sued the UFC after vacating his belt to stop them from crowning a new champion. Penn is already a legend in this sport, but if he wants to rise to demigod status with the rest of the fight world serving as loyal subjects, this is his best shot.
- Chris Colemon