Could a Union Work in the UFC?

By Ben Leven
Dana White UFC
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Unions are instituted to protect the rights of workers everywhere. They work because the status quo is easy to follow when the employees are under a specific banner. For example, the NFL and MLB have unions because they have organized teams, which make it manageable to implement rules and regulations for everyone to follow. However, individual sports have never had luck with organizing unions, simply because they are comprised of individuals and individuals can only do so much.

Dana White was recently asked if the UFC will ever have a union. According to, he had this to say about a union:

“I doubt it. The thing about fighting is, fighting is not a team sport, it’s an individual sport. It’s going to be tough to see a day with Silva or GSP is giving up big chunks of their money to guys who won’t make two fights in the UFC. Different sports.”

White is right. A fighter’s revenue depends on how much he earns per fight. A big name like Anderson Silva probably makes more in one fight than Chris Clements does in a year. I’m certainly not ragging on Clements, but his career hasn’t even come close to stardom yet. It would be hard to get a fighter like Silva, or Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to break off a piece of their earnings to anyone who hasn’t done what they have done.

The amount of success in individual sports depends on the individual himself, not the team he represents. Individual fighters do train on the same team, but the effort is always recognized by the fighter first and foremost. When Georges St. Pierre won the welterweight title, GSP won the title, not Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts. When the New York Giants won the Super Bowl last year, the Giants won, not Eli Manning.

Could a union ever work in the UFC?

They could work; it would just be extraordinarily hard to institute one and to keep it going strong. The biggest risk you have for organized unions are of course strikes. If every UFC fighter in the same union decided they were taking the same BS, then they could all go on strike and then you have nothing. If one fighter has decided he can’t take the BS, as many have before, they put themselves on the shelves. When that happens, the sole fighter is only putting his career in jeopardy not the entire institution. This fact makes it easier for the UFC to say to that fighter: “Go screw yourself; there are a hundred other fighters who will play ball.”

Theoretically, if the UFC had a union, these are few aspects needed for it to work.

  1. Organize a union that all fighters join.
  2. Each fighter gets a guaranteed amount of fights per year.
  3. Each fighter gets a minimum rate per fight.
  4. If a fighter is winning each fight he has, then said fighter is allowed to compete in more fights.
  5. Fighters can reject fights whenever they please, but are only allowed a certain amount of times to do so.
  6. Each fighter part of the union is guaranteed a percent an event makes off of promotions. (If of course, they were part of it.)

If the highest earning fighters are convinced that sacrificing some of what they have for the greater good of the sport, well more power to them. However, I don’t see why the UFC would want a union, because it would just mean less money for the corporate heads. It will be a long time before the top earners and CEOs decide to sacrifice their purse so that the organization as a whole can benefit.

Again, like everything else in life, only time will tell.

These are just a few ideas, there are more that I certainly missed. If you guys have any ideas, please leave them in the comment bar.

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