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UFC’s Leslie Smith launches Project Spearhead, a new effort to unionize fighters

Leslie Smith is trying to form a fighter’s union once and for all.

UFC Fight Night - Gunnar Nelson v Santiago Ponzinibbio - SSE Hydro Photo by Craig Watson/PA Images via Getty Images

A new effort to unionize mixed martial artists on the UFC roster has come to light.

UFC women’s bantamweight Leslie Smith has launched Project Spearhead, the latest association with plans to attempt to assemble a fighter’s union. The Project Spearhead website went live Friday.

As of now, Smith is serving as the Project Spearhead interim president, while UFC lightweight Kajan Johnson has recently been named the interim vice president. Labor lawyer Lucas Middlebrook — best known in MMA as the attorney who helped Nick Diaz in his 2015 marijuana case — is also part of Project Spearhead, per the website.

Project Spearhead is hoping to unionize UFC fighters. There is a long process that must occur before a union can come to fruition. First, 30 percent of the UFC roster needs to sign confidential authorization cards that are valid for one year. If that happens, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will determine whether UFC fighters shall be considered employees or independent contractors.

If the NLRB classifies UFC fighters as employees, Project Spearhead will host an election, and 50 percent of the fighters plus one must vote in favor of Project Spearhead. If that happens, Project Spearhead will then begin work toward a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Endeavor-owned promotion.

If the NLRB classifies UFC fighters as independent contractors, a regular union cannot be formed. Per the website, if that happens, fighters “can continue our voluntary association to focus on bettering our profession.”

The Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Assocation (MMAAA) and Professional Fighters Association (PFA) have attempted to form a fighter’s union in recent years. According to the Project Spearhead, the main reason it will succeed unlike past groups is because there are no outside influences in it.

“Project Spearhead is not sponsored or run by any individual or outside organization,” the website read, “and no position of power will be gifted to any individual because they know the right people.”

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