UFC Paying Big Bucks To Lobby Senate On Bill Potentially Affecting Fighters’ Employment Status

The promotion has been spending the big bucks to ensure lawmakers swing in their favour

Dana White, UFC
Credit: UFC (via YouTube)

UFC lobbying efforts seem to focus on one important sticking point with their fighters.

The world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion company is credited for some of the most important advancements in breaking MMA through into the mainstream. Their lobbying department is a well-oiled machine with experience promoting the brute sport at a time when it was illegal, to then getting it legalized in opposing states, the UFC has truly achieved unparalleled heights.

UFC paying big bucks to lobby Senate

The UFC has used its influence to its advantage, calling for tougher laws on piracy and copyright infringement. As a global entity with athletes from all around the world, it has also been able to pull some strings when it comes to foreign relations, work visas, and the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act.

Based on federal disclosure forms submitted by the UFC, there appears to be a concerted effort around unfair labor practices. The latest form releases reflect the UFC lobbying work on the following set of bills: H.R.842 and S.420, as reported first by Bloody Elbow. These bills guard the employees against being let go based on participation in strikes.

A major sticking point between the fighters and the UFC has been the ‘independent contractor’ nature of their relationship. As an independent contractor, the UFC doesn’t have to offer its athletes the same benefits as an employee (such as parental leave, redundancy pay, protection against discrimination, and unfair dismissal).

On the other hand, fighters argue that they are not independent contractors in the essence. Their argument has weight to it considering they face restrictions similar to that of an employee but without any of the incentives. For example, a fighter has no sponsorship opportunities inside the octagon due to UFC’s kit partnership deal but the UFC can keep the athlete from competing anywhere else.

To be an independent contractor, you have to fulfill one important condition, that you’re not dependent on the organization and have the freedom to work for others. This is not a privilege UFC fighters get to enjoy.

UFC paid Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP to conduct lobbying work on the aforementioned issues. They have been paying the firm $80,000 every quarter for its efforts and have spent over $240,000 on the Right to Organize Act of 2021, as well as other issues.

The bills seek to outright eliminate the practice of having employees waive their rights to pursue or join a collective or class-action lawsuit.

It’s unclear what side the promotion is on

While it’s not officially reported what side the UFC is on, they are likely against the idea of having the bills passed. It would allow for the fighters to attain a status closer to that of an employee and be entitled to a number of conditions under the law.

Their focus on the line “Employment status of mixed martial artists” could indicate an attempt to exclude MMA fighters from the same kind of incentives. If the Senate bill fails to change their work status in regard to Federal Law, the fighters will continue as they have under what some might call unfair labor practices.

If you’re a US citizen and wish to contact your US Senator for any reason (including requests to show support for or against a specific bill), you may use the ‘Contacting U.S. Senators’ tool on senate.gov.

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