For the past few years, there have been rising complaints from all directions regarding fighter pay. There are many ways the UFC’s fighters could make more money, but none that everybody can agree on. Where should this money come from? Top tier athletes like Jon Jones and St. Pierre more than likely would not be willing to let go of hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay the undercards, and the UFC themselves do not seem willing to pay more than they have to for low level talent. There is little, to no bargaining power for the fighters, as the UFC has a monopsony over the MMA industry.
One solution that is easily reached, would be for MMA fighters to form a fighters union. This is more complicated than it sounds, as 30% of the UFC’s fighters would have to sign authorization cards stating that they wish to be represented by a union. After this, the NLRB would have to certify these signatures and oversee a yes or no election held by the fighters. If there was a yes majority, than a UFC fighters union would be formed.
Regardless of how unlikely this happening would be, it does not matter. In the end, fighters are classified as independent contractors. As much as they are treated like employees, they cannot form a fighters union because independent contractors cannot form unions. This leaves only the option of forming an association. An association is a non-profit organization that promotes a profession by maintaining standards and advocating its interests. Despite lacking the ability to collectively bargain and strike, an association would allow fighters to voice their opinions on issues such as TRT exemptions, pay, judging and rule changes. It will be tough, but i believe that somebody will organize an association and get some of the power back into the hands of the fighters. Only time will tell, with the infant sport of MMA.