There is an announcement planned for later this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET that promises to "re-define" mixed martial arts (MMA), featuring former Bellator MMA owner, Bjorn Rebney, as well as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) stars Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, T.J. Dillashaw, Tim Kennedy and Donald Cerrone.
Speculation has swirled about the mystery event since it was revealed earlier this week, with most of the MMA community leaning toward news related to the advancement of a union, a thorny issue that picked up steam about four months ago when sports agent, Jeff Borris, introduced the formation of Professional Fighters Association (PFA).
On the eve of the announcement, Deadspin.com did some muckraking and discovered that Rebney has been a very active domainer since his ouster from Bellator MMA back in 2014, perhaps linking him to PFA and an MMA union movement.
"Bjorn Rebney also owns the domains mmaaassociation.com and themmaaa.com, according to a more complete WHOIS lookup. Both were registered both in mid-August. Unlike the other inactive domains, themmaaa.com displays a password protected login, and [a] logo."
Rebney, according to the report, "didn't respond to requests for comment about a potential MMA Athletes Association." It's important to note, though, that Rebney secured the URLs around the same time PFA went public with its intentions (Aug. 2016). While PFA appears to be moving forward -- possibly securing commitments from the UFC athletes mentioned above, among others -- one fighter who has already fallen off the bandwagon is Leslie Smith. The five-fight UFC women's Bantamweight veteran recently pulled her support after an info leak of confidential information revealed the names of additional fighters who expressed interest in PFA.
She explains her withdrawal in an open letter:
"This is an open letter to apologize to all the fighters, trainers and managers that I introduced to Jeff Borris in the capacity of the PFA. I am stepping away from the PFA because our vision and methodology surrounding a fighters union are not aligned. I apologize to any of the fighters and their supporters who may have been negatively affected by the actions of Jeff Borris though the PFA. I still believe in the need for, and will continue to work toward, a union for fighters under the UFC banner. Previously I thought we needed help and leadership from a well-established sports agent such as Jeff Borris. I believe strongly now that for a fighter union to succeed it must be the fighters that lead and choose. In order to assist in the progression of PFA, I made a list of active fighters that I thought would be great candidates to serve on an interim executive board. I spoke to those fighters and solicited insight from several managers on the condition of confidentiality. I shared all the names and information I had compiled with Jeff Borris, because he pledged confidentiality and professed his desire to see the liberation of fighters from restrictive contracts and one-sided negotiations. Most of the fighters to whom I spoke prudently withheld absolute commitment to the union until such time that they felt confident in the union and that the best leadership was in place. I was horrified when I read an article published by a major MMA news outlet that included a list of fighter names, some of whom I had spoken regarding potential involvement in the PFA. The names included people to whom I had promised confidentiality, and those people had neither pledged commitment nor consented to the release of their names."
While unfortunate, if PFA is indeed the focus of the conference call later this afternoon -- and it has rallied the support of St-Pierre and the others -- it will be a major coup for the organization and, in turn, the collective interests of MMA fighters. If you are wondering how the process to unionize works, MMAFighting.com recently provided a succinct breakdown:
"In order for UFC fighters to unionize, 30 percent of the roster will need to sign solicitation cards. If that process is successful, Borris — or another possible union leader — can go to the UFC to see if they will voluntarily recognize a union. If the UFC says no, the cards can be brought to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and an election will be held. At that point, 50 percent of UFC fighters plus one are needed to elect a union and executive director."
Either way, it should get very, very interesting in just a few short hours -- see you at 4 p.m. ET!