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Lawyers hit MMAAA with cease-and-desist letter, attempt to block action against UFC

Viacom With Spike TV's 'Bellator' Ring The NASDAQ Closing Bell Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Late last week, former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney announced the creation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA), an organization — much like the Professional Fighters Association (PFA) — designed to protect the collective interests of athletes competing for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

That made a handful of attorneys very, very unhappy.

Surprisingly enough, none of them represent UFC, as the world’s preeminent mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion is just fine with its contracted athletes, like Georges St-Pierre, Donald Cerrone, and Cain Velasquez, among others, campaigning for a better sport.

UFC President Dana White? Not so much.

Attorneys Jim Quinn and Eric Hochstadt, outside counsel for MMAAA, issued a statement addressing the recent cease-and-desist letter, one demanding the immediate termination of all action against UFC.

Yesterday, the MMAAA received a “cease and desist” letter from a group of lawyers seeking to stop the MMAAA from signing up fighters and sticking up for their rights against the UFC and its owners WME-IMG. The MMAAA will do no such thing. Those lawyers – who represent only a few fighters – are focused on getting some money out of one case, of which they seek a significant portion for themselves. Those lawyers do not speak for anyone else, and certainly not the MMAAA and all the fighters the organization represents now and will quickly grow to represent in the sport.

Over a year ago, those same lawyers reached out to the MMAAA to join forces with us. We had a meeting and made clear that the MMAAA’s primary focus would be on achieving three core goals: 1) substantially increasing UFC fighter pay to 50%; 2) securing all-encompassing long term benefits for UFC fighters; and 3) a settlement to compensate past and current UFC fighters for all of the UFC’s wrongs. To achieve these goals for the benefit of the fighters, we also made clear the MMAAA needed to receive a percentage of a monetary settlement to cover the costs to fund the MMAAA for staffing and attorneys both for past work getting to this point and the long fight ahead. The lawyers made clear that they did not share the MMAAA’s vision. They are focused on a short-term monetary recovery, of which they will seek 33%, and then they are gone from this sport. We parted ways at that point.

The MMAAA is all about the fighters benefitting when the UFC is finally forced to take a powerful group of the fighters seriously. The MMAAA will be executing on that plan and will not be stopped in this effort on behalf of fighters.

Somehow it always comes back to money.

Prior to the formation of MMAAA, several fighters with experience under the UFC umbrella, like Jon Fitch, Nate Quarry, and Cung Le, just to name a few, filed a class-action lawsuit alleging antitrust violations and “coercive practices.”

Read that complaint here.

UFC clearly has several opponents outside the Octagon. It’s unfortunate that none of them can seem to get on the same page, even though each entity claims to be putting the fighters first.

First in line at the unemployment office? Time will tell.

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