Randy Couture thinks UFC can avoid a fighter's union by resolving key issues

DALLAS TX - FEBRUARY 04: MMA champion Randy Couture attends the "ZigTech Cowboy Up Challenge" hosted by Reebok as MMA champion Randy Couture rides a mechanical bull on February 4 2011 in Dallas Texas. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Mixed martial artists are used to fighting for a living.

But sometimes the definition of "living" can vary greatly between talent that competes for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world's largest fight promotion.

That's because of the disparity in fight purses, that can start as low as a few thousand dollars for the up-and-comers and go as high as several hundred thousand for the established veterans.

Simply put, the big guns and former champs can afford to sit on the sidelines if they blow out a knee in practice, or injure themselves in the gym.

But if you make $5,000 a fight? Not so much.

That gap in earnings and the hardship that can befall lesser paid fighters has prompted talk within the MMA community for a fighter's union in order to establish equal rights among talent.

Just don't tell that to the guy making six figures per fight.

Unionize? Or not to unionize? Former UFC champion Randy Couture tells ESPN.com that sooner or later this thing is going to turn into a "battle," but one that can be avoided if both sides choose to sit down and resolve the key issues at hand.

"There’s going to be a battle. I’d rather sit down with the UFC, [president] Dana White and [CEO] Lorenzo Fertitta and figure out a way to implement some things with their blessing. Health insurance for fighters when they’re not competing is a huge issue. There are a few fighters who could call up the UFC and say, ‘Look, I need some help, I blew out my knee in practice,’ and the UFC is going to help them. They’ve been generous but they can’t do that with everyone. There are over 200 fighters ... There’s a whole bunch of issues when you start unionizing ... There’s a give and take there. [Unions] can sometimes get carried away. It would be great to sit down and figure out a way to take care of the guys in this company so that everybody feels good about it and no one is in a position to have too much power or for a fighter to take advantage of a union and hold out. There’s got to be a way to come together and meet on ground that everyone can live with."

While it's hard to imagine a picket line at a UFC event, how effective would a union lockout be in a sport that is ultra-competitive like MMA?

Talent is getting cut after two consecutive losses, WEC and now Strikeforce have been added to the roster and there are gyms across the country full of aspiring fighters looking for their big break.

Conversely, how much longer can Zuffa continue to throw its hands up and declare "Independent Contractor" every time it's expected to foot the bill when a fighter gets hurt or looks for a pay increase?

Like "The Natural" pointed out, it's only a matter of time before this thing comes to a head. But are you confident a middle ground can be reached? Or will we eventually see a fighter's union in MMA?

What's your take on this issue Maniacs?

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