HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: UFC President Dana White speaks during the UFC on Fox: Velasquez v Dos Santos - Press Conference at W Hollywood on September 20, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Assemblyman Luis Alejo introduced a bill in California with the intention of "cleaning up" MMA, which passed out of committee last week with a 5-3 vote. The bill introduces a code of conduct which would allow the state athletic commission to take action against fighters who use "hate speech," slurs, engage in sexual assaults and so on. The bigger issue is that there is language in the bill that could directly challenge the contracts of the UFC.
In particular, the bill calls the following a violation of the new code of conduct on the part of a promoter (Fight Opinion has the easiest to find/read versions of the bill):
(1) Assigns any exclusive future merchandising rights to a promoter for an unreasonable period beyond the term of the promotional contract.
(2) Automatically renews a promotional contract or extends the term without good faith negotiation, or extends the term of any promotional contract of a fighter who participates in a championship contest for a period greater than 12 months beyond the existing contract termination period.
(3) Unreasonably restricts a mixed martial arts fighter from obtaining outside sponsorship from a firm, product or individual.
(4) Requires a mixed martial arts fighter to relinquish all legal claims that the fighter has, or may acquire in the future, against the promoter beyond assumption of the risks Inherent in the sport ofmixed martial arts and the Fighter participation in Pre and Post Bout events and activities.
(5) Requires a fighter to grant or waive any additional rights not contained in the promotional contract as a condition precedent to the fighter's participation in any Contest.
Obviously the first point is something that the UFC has done in the past and led to falling out with Jon Fitch and American Kickboxing Academy for a brief period. The second is a minor challenge to the "championship clause." The third is the standard UFC approval of sponsors and eliminating options from fighters. And so on.
Basically, the standard UFC contract would violate the code of conduct and thus the state would be able to suspend the UFC's promoter license.
In response to this, Dana White simply said that if the bill fully passes and is implemented, they'll stop running shows in the state of California (via The Orange County Register):
"Do you know what's going on in Sacramento, right now?" White said. "They are trying to pass this bill to raise our taxes and do a bunch of crazy (expletive) to us. They voted 4-2 for the bill. There were a couple of people not present to vote on it. If that thing passes we won't do anymore fights in California. All kinds of crazy (expletive) they're trying to throw in this bill for MMA. You know who's doing it? The Culinary Union from Las Vegas. These guys have been (expletive) with us in New York, too. That's why we're not in New York. These guys got a bunch of lobbyists together to try to pass this bill against MMA. They are putting pressure on my partners, the Fertitta brothers, because they own the fourth-largest gaming company in the country and they are non-union."
It's a story that demands close attention going forward and we'll make sure to bring any updates worth sharing going forward.