In the last week, we've posted on UFC president Dana White's threat to no longer put on UFC events in California if legislation increasing MMA regulation passes, Anheuser-Busch's admonition that the UFC reign in sexist and homophobic comments from fighters and a brutal hit piece that ran in Business Insider.
While these stories may seem only tangentially related, they all bear the fingerprints of the group that has established itself in the last two years as far-and-away the UFC's most formidable foe: the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The local opposes the UFC primarily because they are owned by the Fertitta Brothers who also own the notably anti-union Station Casinos in Las Vegas. The Culinary Workers have been trying to unionize Station Casinos for a long-time, haven't gotten much of anywhere and have since turned their energies to being a fly in the UFC ointment.
The Culinary Workers are considered the biggest single reason behind the UFC's failure to get mixed martial arts regulated in New York state. They've also become a clearing house that packages and distributes controversial quotes by UFC fighters and Dana White to media outlets and activists who are looking to take a shot at the fighting promotion.
After the jump we'll hear analysis from Dana White and MMA Payout on the impact of the Culinary Union on the UFC...
Dana makes it clear he blames the Culinary Union for the California legislation, via the OC 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."
MMA Payout comments on the Culinary Union's anti-UFC offensive:
Regarding who is responsible for triggering most of this recent bad press for the UFC, look no further than the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, who has had ongoing labor dispute with Station Casinos and UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta - who are both firmly against labor unions. So far, the Culinary Union has been credited for keeping the UFC out of the state of New York for several years by backing anti-MMA legislators in the state, triggering a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation, writing letters to UFC advertisers and TV partners (FOX) informing them of the inappropriate language and behavior of the organization and its fighters, the creation of http://www.unfitforchildren.org/ (a website illustrating many of these examples), and just recently, drafting up a version of MMA Bill of Rights and presenting it in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and recently in front of the California State Athletic Commission.
In terms of the labor union's efforts against the UFC owners, this week has been a rewarding one. The letters to UFC sponsors and multiple anti abuse and violence groups has increased the awareness of lack of etiquette it has haunted the UFC in the past, when they just weren't quite mainstream enough for anyone to care. Landing the recent FOX deal and essentially putting all their main competitors out of business in recent years has caught the attention of mainstream groups in the last year.
The UFC may have wiped out or bought out virtually all of its serious competitors in the MMA space, but it's clear that they still have plenty of enemies.
The Culinary Union is employing a clever and ruthless two-prong strategy to attack the UFC where it is most vulnerable: with advertisers and regulators. The UFC is dependent on blue chip companies like Anheuser-Busch both for revenue and the legitimacy conferred by having a Fortune 500 sponsor. The UFC is similarly dependent on legislators and regulators to operate. The Culinary Union is hitting them where it hurts.