The talk of the MMA world over the past few weeks has involved the sport’s biggest names revolting against the very company they work for.
Top stars Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal have been outspoken recently against the UFC and the questionable treatment of their fighters.
Here is why these fighters are upset with the organization and what the future holds for both of them.
Before diving into the two stars and why they are upset with the UFC, some key details must be addressed. Fighters under the UFC banner are considered “independent contractors” and not “full-time employees.” Without delving into the legal differences of these two, there are a few key points that must be understood.
Independent contractors have the ability to set their own wages, work for whoever they what, work for multiple people, receive no long-term benefits (401k, medical, etc.), and hold no allegiance to any one person/organization so long as the agreed-upon work is accomplished. Full-time employees on the other handwork for one company, have a set wage and can receive benefits.
Here is where the issues begin: As stated earlier, UFC fighters are deemed, independent contractors.
However, they cannot set their own wages, they receive no long-term benefits, they cannot work (fight) for any organization other than the UFC, and the fighters cannot even find outside sponsorship to supplement income.
Another key point that must be addressed outside of the independent contractor versus full-time employee argument is the UFC’s profit-sharing agreements. Now the first point to this is that there is no union of fighters that exists to hold arbitration periods with the UFC to determine pay like other major sporting organizations have.
There is no collective bargaining agreement for the fighters to hold with the UFC. The fighters are essentially at the mercy of the company they work for. This is especially detrimental to the athlete because they essentially negotiate their own deals on an individual basis as opposed to how many organizations such as the NFL or NBA have guidelines on how to handle athlete contracts. The final piece to this puzzle is the revenue sharing that the UFC has currently in place.
To provide an example, of all the revenue the NBA makes throughout its season, about 50% of that revenue goes to the athletes. In the UFC, that percentage is somewhere in the ballpark of 12 to 18% depending on the event and the number of fighters at the event. Now, how do Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal come into the mix?
Without explaining each fighter’s situation in too much detail, they are both essentially taking the UFC to task for their refusal to renegotiate new deals, like an independent contractor could do, and they are both requesting their releases because of it. They have both claimed the UFC has made insultingly low offers to them for high-level fights. In Jon Jones’ case, it is his debut at Heavyweight and “super fight” with Francis N’Gannou. In Jorge Masvidal’s case, it is a Welterweight Championship fight with current champion Kamaru Usman.
From the fighter’s perspectives, these are two incredibly popular, fan-friendly fights to put on and are both worthy of the main event slot. For Jones, he would be taking his first fight at Heavyweight against a marquee name. According to Jones, his contract was also negotiated for Light Heavyweight fights, of which this would not be. For Masvidal, he would be fighting for the top championship in his division and has also claimed that he made double the amount he was offered for this fight in his last main event against Nate Diaz for the BMF Championship. To summarize, these fighters both want more money and believe they deserve it.
From the UFC’s perspective, both of these fighters have active contracts that they signed less than a year ago. The company believes these fighters should honor those contracts and when they are up, they can either renegotiate or walk away. The other aspect of this dispute has to be the current situation we all find ourselves in. Because of the COVID-19 shutdown, the UFC cannot hold live events with a paying crowd. This has drastically hurt the company’s bottom line. The UFC is also the machine. It will not be hurt by dealing with negotiations with two of its over 600 fighter roster. This merely affects the company’s view of the public.
It would be shocking if the UFC were to actually release both Jones and Masvidal.
What is more likely to happen, is these two will continue to bash the company and sit out until fans are allowed back into the buildings and the UFC can offer both men more money for their respective fights. However, the negative press the company is receiving due to these two stars speaking out is undeniable. The hope for fighters and fans is that this is the start of something new for the UFC.
Maybe the UFC will start treating its independent contractors as such. They will never let them fight for other organizations, but they may be more open to the idea of fighters negotiating their wages, declining offers the fighter deems too low, and other fighter rights that men like Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal are arguing for now.
Time will tell, but this is certainly an interesting time to be a fight fan.
Featured Image: Sporting News