There are at present multiple efforts underway to try to organize professional fighters; the best known are the PFA and the MMAFA. Despite some overlapping goals, the two organizations do not see eye to all in all regards.
The PFA is led by uber baseball agent Jeff Boris and attorney Lucas Middlebrook; they seek to organize UFC fighters into a union. They are not attempting to organize professional fighting generally, or even fighters in the Viacom-owned Bellator MMA, or other top-tier promotions. A necessary step for Boris’s efforts to succeed is the redefining of UFC fighters as employees, rather than independent contractors.
The MMAFA, started by attorney Rob Maysey in 2009, has long advocated for a players association, as well as the extension of the Muhammad Ali to MMA. It has attracted several prominent supporters, including Randy Couture, Jon Fitch, Cung Le, Nate Quarry, and Leslie Smith.
The PFA was announced in August and on Thursday told Shaun Al-Shatti for MMA Fighting that they hope to announce a fighter executive board by UFC 205 fight week. UFC 205 takes place on November 12. The board would consist of nine current or former fighters.
“Those nine individuals are going to be responsible for making policy decisions,” said Middlebrook. “As the union starts to collect more authorization cards and gets closer to potentially filing with the NLRB, or asking for voluntary recognition, there’s certain things that you have to do both from an administrative end and from a legal standpoint.
“You have to have a constitution and bylaws that end up getting filed with the Department of Labor, and there’s things in those constitutions and bylaws that you’re really going to want fighters to start making the decisions on. You can amend those at a later date, but you don’t want just a lawyer and an agent drafting that for the fighters. This is something they should have input on. It’s going to be their union. So ultimately the executive board is going to be empowered with making policy decisions for the union going forward and administrative decisions on when we’re ready to file with the NLRB.”
“What I’m finding is that it’s more — and this is typical with any union organizing drive — that they don’t understand the process, they don’t understand the protections that are in the law, what it means to sign an authorization card, what happens after that. So I’m really finding that once you are able to talk one-on-one or in small groups, that once they have a better understanding, a lot of that fear starts dwindling away.
“And actually, some are really looking forward to actually coming out and being publicly known for their role on the board.”
The attorney said he expected by early spring of 2017 to have a sufficient number of cards to make a decision on where to go next.