Video: UFC's Dana White Responds To Call For An MMA Bill Of Rights

Dana White. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images.

Yesterday at Nick Diaz' preliminary hearing in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 called on the NSAC to adopt a "Bill Of Rights" for professional Mixed Martial Artists. Their full press release is after the jump.

The Culinary Workers have been trying to organize employees of Station Casinos, owned by the Fertitta Brothers who are the majority owners of the UFC, for a long time. In 2010 the U.S. Government issued a labor law complaint against Station.

It was also the Culinary Workers Union who requested that the FTC investigate Zuffa and the UFC for monopolistic practices after the purchase of Strikeforce. They've also been involved in the opposition to getting MMA sanctioned in New York state. And they've launched a bunch of web sites attacking White and the UFC.

Here are the key bullet points from the Culinary Workers' release outlining what they feel are the exploitative conditions of the modern MMA industry:

  • Long-term , exclusivity contracts that bind athletes to a single promoter, in some cases indefinitely. These contracts make it more difficult for athletes to negotiate higher pay and diminish the incentive of smaller promoters to bid for talented fighters
  • Limited control over image and likeness rights. Professional mixed-martial arts fighters must frequently forfeit future revenue streams from DVD sales, video games, clothing and other merchandise, even after retirement.
  • Lack of financial transparency. Under the federal Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (Ali Act), business promoters are required to make extensive financial disclosures to state athletic commissions. No such requirements govern MMA. As a result, fighters often have to negotiate in the dark and are unsure if they are being compensated fairly.

MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani spoke to Dana White in Japan and got him to respond to the culinary union. Video of that interview is after the jump. Here's what Dana had to say about the Culinary Workers' and the Muhammad Ali Act:

The Muhammad Ali Act was put in place so that athletic commissions could have more control over sanctioning bodies, corruption, and a list of other things. There is no corruption, there's no sanctioning organizations in MMA. It's a bunch of dorks who have no idea what they're talking about.

The fact that they're spending the culinary workers dues to mess with an MMA organization that brings a lot of money into your state. You guys are old-school gangsters.

So far the Culinary Workers' efforts have been little more than a nuisance for White, Zuffa and the Fertittas, but if their call for a Muhammad Ali Act type of law to be passed covering MMA gain traction, that would dramatically impact the way the UFC does business.

The following is a press release from the Culinary Workers Union:

Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 calls on the Nevada Athletic Commission to adopt a "Bill of Rights" for professional mixed-martial arts athletes

Las Vegas, NV -- Today, the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 called on the Nevada Athletic Commission to adopt and enforce a "Bill of Rights for Professional Mixed-Martial Artists," as a vital step toward protecting these athletes from abusive business practices and coercive contracts.

"Many athletes who compete in the sport of mixed-martial arts are subject to coercive contracts and exploitative business practices that are not allowed in professional boxing," said Chris Serres, a research analyst with the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, an affiliate of UNITE HERE. "We call on the Nevada Athletic Commission to take a leadership role and push for the adoption of this `Bill of Rights" in every state where it is currently legal to hold mixed-martial arts events. If adopted and enforced, these ten rights would change the sport's most egregious business practices."

In testimony today before the Nevada Athletic Commission, the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 outlined the following exploitative business practices in the sport of mixed-martial arts:

· Long-term , exclusivity contracts that bind athletes to a single promoter, in some cases indefinitely. These contracts make it more difficult for athletes to negotiate higher pay and diminish the incentive of smaller promoters to bid for talented fighters

· Limited control over image and likeness rights. Professional mixed-martial arts fighters must frequently forfeit future revenue streams from DVD sales, video games, clothing and other merchandise, even after retirement.

· Lack of financial transparency. Under the federal Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (Ali Act), business promoters are required to make extensive financial disclosures to state athletic commissions. No such requirements govern MMA. As a result, fighters often have to negotiate in the dark and are unsure if they are being compensated fairly.

The "Bill of Rights for Professional Mixed Martial Artists" would grant mixed-martial artists similar protections currently afforded to professional boxers, who are already protected by a boxers' Bill of Rights and the Ali Act. "There is no compelling reason why boxers are protected from exploitation, while mixed-martial arts athletes are not," Serres said.

The Bill of Rights was inspired by conversations the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 has had with more than 50 mixed-martial arts athletes, and their agents, across North America.

The Culinary Union's testimony before the Nevada Athletic Commission is available online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/82443511/Culinary-Workers-Union-Local-226-testimony-before-the-Nevada-Athletic-Commission

A copy of the "Bill of Rights for Professional Mixed Martial Artists" is also available online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/82245038/MMA-Bill-of-Rights

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 is Nevada's largest union with 55,000 members. It is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, which represents 250,000 stadium, food service, hotel, airport and gaming workers in North America.

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