Big Labor vs The Baldfather: Culinary & UFC Fight is an MMA Soap Opera

By Rich Bergeron
Chael Sonnen, Mauricio Rua, and Dana White
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Culinary Union executives in Las Vegas are grinding their gears to give a huge headache to the Ultimate Fighting Championships lately. Nowhere is this assault more potent than on the other side of the country from their real target: Station Casinos.

Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 26 card on Fox Sports 1 in Boston set the stage for a battle pitting the UFC‘s “Baldfather” Dana White against the union bosses trying to “unite” Station Casinos.

Labor interests involved in this fight aligned with women’s groups and other organizations to engage in a full assault on the UFC’s return to Boston. Their attempts to block anyone 18 and under from attending the fights went by the wayside only to see the union and other friendly interests seek to destroy Chael Sonnen‘s chance at gaining a license for his main event bout with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

“The American Gangster” earned a license to fight in Massachusetts anyway.

These high-profile examples of running interference earned the Culinary and Unite Here flock some headlines, but they made little headway.

Local 226 is on a mission to divide international political support for the UFC and MMA in general.

They also seem compelled to compromise the public’s favorable opinion of the sport and the organization by saturating the media with reports of their bold moves to stand in the way of events like Fight Night 26.

They execute the same chess move against Station Casinos locations in Las Vegas. They’ve contacted musical acts by mail and phone and even used bully tactics on convention groups to encourage them not to do business with Station Casinos and to avoid their casinos and concert halls. The Culinary stages sit-ins, parades and public spectacles where union members are hauled off under arrest.

Dana White has a repertoire of F-bomb salutes he throws at every major issue. His take on the 226’s meddling with Saturday’s card in Boston was no exception.

“The unions are nasty, man,” The UFC President said at a recent Boston press conference for UFN 26. “They don’t care.”

White went on to describe how the UFC’s parent company “Zuffa” employs 250 people, not including the international supporting cast. He emphasized that the company has 475 fighters on the roster. He accused the union of interfering with their livelihood … just to get a chunk of change from Station Casinos.

White told the assembled media that the fight for the Culinary to get a grasp on Station Casinos is worth $10 million per year for the UFC-busting union. He summed it all up with two succinct words…

“F-#$# them!”

White gets the last laugh on the competition, especially if the UFC puts on a great show in Beantown.

But, what does all this casino union stuff have to do with fighting? That’s what fans really need to know. We never seem to get the answer. Both sides have dueling Web sites now accusing the other of misconduct and corruption. It’s an old-fashioned pit fight in political and legal maneuvering.

Is it a “kill the family of the guy who owes you and he’ll pay up” situation here for the union interests? If so, “Unite Here” and Local 226 may just be abiding by the principle of Divide and Conquer.

Whatever the real purpose behind their beef with the UFC is, there’s no proof there’s any sincerity behind it.

  • Are they planning to start a fighters’ union?
  • Will they lobby Congress to change the game?
  • Where’s the action behind all this misplaced rage?
  • Why the international propaganda push without any follow up on fixing the issues you’re supposedly trying to educate the public about?
  • Where are the real dots connecting the UFC to Station Casinos?

And the most important questions of all:

  • Do Culinary executives and the workers they represent really give a damn about anything the UFC is doing wrong?
  • Is this whole soap opera about anything other than unionizing a casino chain?
  • Will Local 226 and Unite Here ever figure out how to mobilize their forces to impact the sport of MMA in a positive manner?

Station Casinos and the union clamping down on their casinos may never resolve their issues if they continue down this destructive path of meaningless public squabbles.

Both sides should heed the words of Former President Richard Nixon:

“Always remember that others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then, you destroy yourself.”

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