Smile’n Sam Alvey becomes first UFC fighter to openly reject forming a fighter’s union

Sam Alvey not a union fan

Props to UFC bantamweight Leslie Smith who is carrying the weight of 600 fighters on her shoulders, uphill, in the snow, with possibly one hand tied behind her back. Smith’s latest attempt to organize UFC fighters is called Project Spearhead and everyday she’s attempting to get athletes like Sam Alvey to join. The problem is the UFC roster is littered with a bunch of Sam Alvey’s.

MMA Fighting did a great piece on Smith’s effort to collectively organize fellow fighters last week.

“In a recent court filing, the UFC’s legal defense team writes that the plaintiff’s expert witness, economist Dr. Andrew Zimbalist, was using “junk science” when he compared the percentage of revenue that athletes in leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL receive to how much UFC fighters get.

Why was the comparison incorrect? Because players in those leagues are in a union and UFC fighters were not, the UFC’s attorneys wrote. Paul Gift was the first to report on the filing for Forbes and lawyer Erik Magraken expanded on it at

Essentially, the UFC’s own legal team was intimating that pay earned by athletes in a union is higher, because collective bargaining drives up rates.”

In a interview with the MMA Hour Smith further explained the current of UFC labor landscape.

“Smith, the founder and interim president of Project Spearhead, took that argument as something of a slap in the face. Project Spearhead is seeking to organize UFC fighters with the hope of potentially starting a union in the future.

“In fact, I almost felt that they were laughing at us,” Smith said of the UFC on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. … “That the reason we’re not getting paid is the lack of a union. It’s a little like they’re thumbing their finger at us, because they’re like, ‘we’re telling them what they need to do to get paid more, but we don’t think that they’re gonna do it.’ So it did light a fire up underneath me over the weekend.”

Check out Smith’s Twitter feed any day of the week and you’ll see her try her best to organize fighters in hopes of better working conditions. Fighter pay, insurance, petitions, getting a cut of TV, clothing and video game payouts are just some of the issues that would require fighters have sort of bargaining power.

For the last 25 years fighters in the UFC wield little to no power behind the scenes. Sure NFL, NBA, and MLB players have their own problems but low pay is issues most of those athletes don’t have to worry as much about because they are all part of player unions. The UFC on other hand currently only has to deal 600 disorganized “independent contractors” who do not have the means to enforce any kind of collective bargaining.

Let’s check in with 31-year-old Sam Alvey, who by UFC standards is a pretty expendable cog in their 600 or so piece machine.


Best of luck to Leslie Smith, you’re going to need it.

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