Culinary Union suggests Bill of Rights for MMA fighters

Maggie Hendricks

The Culinary Union, the biggest union representing workers in Nevada, stopped by the Nevada Athletic Commission's meeting on Wednesday to discuss ways to improve treatment for fighters. They want to see the NAC lead the combat sports world by pushing for reforms in MMA.

It wants to see:

1. Equal protections for all fighters. Boxers are protected under the Muhammad Ali Act, which enacts certain rules over boxers that keeps them from getting exploited. Mixed martial artists are not.

2. Right to work. This would allow fighters to sign non-exclusive contracts and would prohibit contracts from automatically renewing. Champions' clauses, which keep champs attached to their contract as long as they hold the belt, would be a thing of the past.

3. Inalienable right to your own name, likeness and image. When Jon Fitch objected to handing over his image in perpetuity to the UFC for its video game, he was cut from the UFC and Dana White threatened to not do business with any fighters from Fitch's gym, American Kickboxing Academy. After Fitch played ball, he was brought back into the fold. This right would allow fighters to exercise the right Fitch wanted to.

4. Free market of sponsorships. This would not just allow fighters to get whoever they would like to sponsor them, but would also let them say no to their promotion's sponsor. In other words, Brock Lesnar could chug a Coors and Carlos Condit could have walked away from a Harley-Davidson if he wanted to pursue a sponsorship with Honda.

5. Transparency of contracts and payments. Fighters would get detailed financial statements from any event they participated in. This would be particularly important to fighters whose contracts earn percentages of pay-per-views or gates.

6. Fair share of revenues. In the NBA and NFL, athletes went through a lockout to fight for roughly half the league's revenues. Because Zuffa is a private company, their revenues are not public, so we have no idea how much revenue the fighters earn. This right would ensure fighters get at least a quarter of revenues.

7. Freedom of association. Fighters would be allowed to unionize in any way they see fit.

8. Right to healthcare insurance for training and fighting. Zuffa fighters are given medical coverage for both fight camps and fights, but this right would ensure it continued.

9. Right to fair fights. The UFC's matchmaking system generally provides fair and evenly matched bouts, but things get murky on subjects like who deserves a title fight. Timing often decides title matches as much as an independent ranking system. This right would call for a transparent ranking of fighters.

10. Professionalism. From the union: "You have the right to be treated with common courtesy and professional respect by other fighters and by promoters and managers. For mixed martial arts to become a mainstream sport accepted by the general public, participants in the sport must act in accordance with commonly accepted standards of courtesy, decency and respect in their public interactions with one another and in their interactions with the public."

In other words, promotions couldn't fire one fighter because of a tweet about rape while not firing another for jokes about child molestation. UFC executives would probably have to stop dropping F-bombs at Twitter followers.

Would you be in support of such a bill? Is it missing anything? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter.

What to read next