On November 21st, Bloody Elbow reported that the total sum of money spent by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to lobby H.R. 5365 (Muhammad Ali Expansion Act) had hit an estimated $290,000. This report cited three publicly disclosed documents that revealed payments of $30,000, $80,000, and $50,000 to lobbying firms with the disclosed intent to ‘work on’ or ‘monitor’ H.R. 5365.
Prior to this, Bloody Elbow detailed other payments from ZUFFA and/or the UFC to lobbyists in amounts that reached an estimated $130,000. These payments were also labeled for work done on H.R. 5365.
Earlier this year, more lobbying reports were disclosed - this time revealing what the UFC spent on lobbyists in the last quarter of 2016.
A document dated December 9th, 2016 revealed a sum of approximately $80,000 had been paid by ‘Zuffa LLC dba Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)” to Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP to lobby both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives regarding ‘Piracy of copyrighted programming’ and ‘H.R 5365 - Muhammad Ali Expansion Act’.
In a document dated January 23rd, 2017, it is disclosed that the UFC also paid Farragut Partners LLP an estimated $50,000 to lobby the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. This payment was in exchange for ‘work on the Muhammad Ali Act’.
With the addition of these two documents, there were a total of eight lobbying reports disclosed by ZUFFA and/or the UFC in 2016 which mention the Ali Expansion Act. The total money described in these documents amounts to an estimated $420,000.
H.R 5365 was submitted to congress by Representative Markwayne Mullins, a Republican from Oklahoma’s 2nd district, on May 26th, 2016. The bill was co-sponsored by 5 republicans and 2 democrats. The text of that bill stated that its intention was to amend the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 (aka the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act) to include mixed martial arts under its purview.
Mullins’ H.R 5365 ‘died’ when the 114th Congress ended in January 2017, as does any bill which is not made into law before the end of the Congress in which it was submitted. On January 3rd Mullins’ reintroduced the bill under the name H.R.44 in the 115h Congress, which runs until January 3rd, 2019. H.R. 44 has 11 co-sponsors (8 Republicans and 3 Democrats). On the day it was introduced H.R. 44 was referred to both the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee. The bill’s previous incarnation was also referred to these committees. On January 25th H.R. 44 was referred to the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In order to become law, H.R. 44 requires a house committee to send it to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, where it would then be debated and voted upon. If it passes a vote, the bill would be referred to the U.S Senate where it must pass another vote. If it passes that vote, the bill would be sent to the President who would either sign it into law or veto it (sending it back to the House of Representatives).
A source very close to the situation, with knowledge of the lobbying operation around the UFC and the Ali Expansion Act, said they thought it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the bill is passed in the 115th U.S. Congress.
For a primer on the Ali Expansion Act, and how it would affect MMA, watch Bloody Elbow’s Paul Gift and John S. Nash, along with former UFC fighter Jamie Varner, discuss the issue on the Show Money Podcast: