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Kajan Johnson: Lack of compensation from UFC video game is ‘disgraceful’

UFC fighters will not be receiving a check in the mail despite being in the new EA Sports UFC 3 video game. A certain ‘Ragin’ UFC lightweight has a lot to say about that.

With EA Sports UFC 3 released last week, UFC lightweight Kajan Johnson is here to remind us of the sad truth: fighters don’t get paid to be in the game.

Johnson isn’t in the video game – and until fighter compensation is introduced, he is happy about that. Ironically, Johnson helped with the game at EA Sports headquarters in Vancouver – he did motion capture for many characters. And because of that, he made more money from EA Sports UFC 3 than nearly all other fighters (a few other fighters did motion capture, too, per Johnson).

Johnson wants to take a stand against the UFC. He feels that what the promotion is doing isn’t right. Fighters deserve to get paid to have their likeness featured in a video game.

“I think it’s disgraceful, actually. I think it’s insane,” he told BloodyElbow.com. “I don’t understand how we’re supposed to be such a forward-thinking society, how we’re OK with a giant corporation exploiting the people like this. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

“Across every single other sport, whether it’s NFL, NBA, MLB, those athletes that are in that game are making money. If they’re using their face and their likeness and their name, they’re gonna be compensated for it. And we’re not — it’s not even on the table for discussion really.”

‘Ragin’ hopes to have a conversation with a UFC executive about the promotion’s decision not to pay its fighters to be in EA Sports UFC 3. But even if he is given that opportunity, Johnson isn’t optimistic anything will come from it.

Johnson also clarified that his anger is towards the UFC, not EA Sports. He said that he is close with some of the people who work at EA and built the game.

“Once again, the UFC has failed to look out for our best interests when negotiating with another company,” Johnson said. “It’s the UFC’s fault. It’s not EA’s fault. I have no problem with EA, I have no problem with the game, I got a problem with the UFC.”

Johnson is also disappointed in his fellow fighters who are helping promote EA Sports UFC 3 without realizing (publicly, at least) that they are getting ripped off. Johnson is part of the MMAFA, an organization trying to extend the Ali Act to MMA, and has long rallied for fighter’s rights. It’s no surprise to him that other fighters aren’t speaking out against the game, but he still takes issue with it.

“Everybody and their f-cking dog is posting about this game,” Johnson said. “Are you not even thinking of the f-cking money that we all just lost? Are you not even thinking about this massive TV deal that’s coming through, that we’re getting zero points on? What the f-ck. On what planet? It’s insane.

“I’m heavily f-cking disappointed. I’m getting more and more disappointed with the rest of the fighters, because nobody is saying anything. Everyone is willing to lay down and beg at the f-cking door. We own the f-cking house – we are the house, we are the product. Without us, there’s no show. Yet we’re begging [the UFC]? For what? I don’t get it. I don’t understand how everyone doesn’t see what I see.”

Johnson wants to make change. How does he go about doing so?

“We need to form a body, for sure, we need to form a union,” Johnson said. “But the union can’t be a typical union. And from what I’ve seen on Twitter lately, the whole NLRB (The National Labor Relations Board) thing is not doing all that well under (U.S. President Donald) Trump right now. But we need to form a union, but not just for UFC. If it’s just for UFC, it solidifies their monopoly. We need an ACTRA- or an SAG-type model for a union.”

Johnson explained that the union would work with all the top promotions, including the UFC, Bellator, and ONE Championship. Fighters would have to register a certain amount of bouts under an elite, unionized promotion before being eligible to join. Promotions would have certain requires before being included, too.

“We still need to all be unified with our own terms that we set,” he said.

“The promotions would be able to share fighters and the titles would all be under the Ali Act. It would all be individual sanctioning bodies.”

Easier said than done, though.

“Now, how do we do that? That’s the problem. How do I do that from Vancouver, Canada by myself?” Johnson asked. “I’m trying to do whatever I can. I’m still reaching out to people and collecting information and trying to figure out the problem. Once we figure out exactly how to get this union to exist, then it’ll just be handing out cards (to) get members.”

If you’re still not a believer in the Ali Act and unions, perhaps this comment from Johnson will sell you:

“It needs to get done,” he said. “What’s happening instead without it around, we’re just being enslaved. It’s just slavery.”

Until a union is formed and the Ali Act is introduced to MMA, it’s unlikely that anything will change – fighters won’t get paid from UFC-branded video games and will lose out on other similar opportunities tied to image rights and sponsorship. Fighters will likely remain stuck at ‘square one,’ and Johnson will become more and more frustrated.

“The majority of the roster, the 99 percent, we have no power to [demand a percentage of EA Sports UFC 3 profits],” Johnson said. “So we’re just stuck with whatever they want to give us, which is nothing.”