It may not prove to be more than a speed bump in the ongoing evolution of the newly formed Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA), but it’s definitely not the unwavering show of support the organization might have hoped for. Donald Cerrone was one of the core group of fighters that took the MMAAA public on November 30th, in an extended conference call featuring GSP, Tim Kennedy, and Bjorn Rebney among others.
And it seemed from that unveiling that this core group of athletes would form the MMAAA’s backbone in negotiating with the UFC going forward. Only that idea may not be quite what Cerrone had in mind. “Cowboy” was targeted in particular by UFC president Dana White on a recent episode of the UFC Unfiltered podcast, with White revealing that he had even gone $100k out of pocket to pay for Cerrone’s legal defense in the past.
Cerrone doesn’t sound like he’s abandoning the MMAAA over White’s admonishment, but the message was definitely received. In a recent media scrum, Cerrone made it clear that he wasn’t looking for a leadership role in the MMAAA and admitted that, “[Dana White]’s right, I probably should have called him and said, ‘hey man, I’m going to do this...’” (transcript via MMAFighting).
"As far as the Association goes man, Georges [St-Pierre] and Tim [Kennedy] called me and asked me to be part of it," Cerrone said. "I didn’t know I was sitting on a board. That kind of took me by surprise, sitting there like, oh wow. I spoke to Dana [White] today on the phone. He’s coming to town, and we’re going to go out to dinner and talk. There’s a lot of things I think this sport needs, you know, retirement pension, health care, things I think we need."
"I wasn’t sitting there saying, ‘we’re moving forward today, we’re going on strike, we need more money," he said during the scrum. "That wasn’t coming out of mouth at all. There were a couple of people that were there that I don’t plan on working with and being a part of, not mentioning any names. I was there mostly just, not saying I’m leading a board or I’m sitting on a board, but more voicing my opinion of what this sport needs.
"Moving forward, I’m still going to stand strong with those and say this is what I believe we need. I believe as a whole we need health care, we need some kind of pension for retirement. The UFC has been nothing but great to me. I can’t complain, they give me what I want. And like Dana said, I called him and he helped me out. That’s true, man. I was in a bind, he got the best lawyers you can pay, and saved my ass."
With Cerrone’s admittedly close relationship with White out on the table, he may find himself in a difficult position going forward; not just toward an idea of leading an organization like the MMAAA, but even being a vocal member.
It’s hard to think other members of a fighters’ association would be 100% on board with Cerrone calling the UFC brass to keep them from being blindsided by future actions. Especially not when, as Bjorn Rebney recent told Bloody Elbow, the MMAAA’s goals for the future are to, create a “constant flow of media” featuring the “biggest stars” in the UFC airing their grievances, in hopes to harm the UFC’s upcoming TV deal negotiations. Can Cerrone be a feature player, while keeping his UFC relationship strong? Time will tell.