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Today, the UFC sent one of their executives, Marc Ratner, to testify in regard to the UFC’s opposition to the Ali Expansion Act, which would take power away from the UFC and give additional rights to the fighters. It would also require greater financial transparency from the mixed martial arts giant, currently facing a class-action anti-trust lawsuit from a number of former fighters, including Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch. The hearing today was sans McGregor, whose representative had at one point expressed interest in testifying.
Ratner’s argument was that the Ali Act would take away matchmaking power from the promoter, and made the dubious claim that fighters, fans and media are collectively able to keep MMA promoters accountable. This portion of the exchange occured after the 1:17 mark of the video above. Transcript via MMAJunkie.com:
“We put on the fights that the fans want to see,” Ratner said. “Fighters, fans and sports reporters keep MMA promoters accountable. H.R. 44 would remove from the promoter the decisions regarding when and against whom fighters are matched, and might force inter-promotional fights. Because different promotions have less comprehensive health and safety standards than the UFC, our fighters would be endangered.”
Mullin countered by attacking the merit system of the UFC’s current matchmaking in regard to the title. While acknowledging that he too wanted to see fan-friendly matchmaking, he contended that in a professional sport, a title should be contended for on a basis of merit. He brought up George St. Pierre’s title shot at UFC 217 as an example.
“If the UFC is considered a professional sport, then it should be on a merit-based rankings system,” Mullin said, “when the fans know the No. 1 contender actually has a shot at the title. Because we haven’t seen that at (middleweight). How did Dan Henderson – and I like Dan Henderson, this is no knock on him – but he wasn’t even in the top-10, and when was he last in the top-10? He got to fight Bisping for the title shot. Did the (No.) 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 (ranked contenders) refuse?
“When Dan Henderson fought Michael Bisping, it was a natural rematch from a fight four or five years ago,” Ratner countered.
“But then it wasn’t a title shot, but yet it was for a title shot,” Mullin shot back. “Then that means the world championship belt that the UFC has isn’t really a world championship belt. It’s really what (UFC Chief Operating Officer) Lawrence Epstein personally told me: It’s simply an award they bestow on the best fighter that night. That’s insulting to every professional athlete.
“How did (Georges St-Pierre) get a fight for the title when he hasn’t had a fight in four years, much less at 185 pounds, where he never fought for the belt?”
“St-Pierre hadn’t fought in four years, you’re absolutely right,” Ratner answered.
“So how did he get a title shot?” Mullin questioned.
“St-Pierre was a former champion,” Ratner replied, “a former pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, according to our. …”
“So he still didn’t fight for a title,” Mullin persisted. “He fought for an award bestowed upon the best fighter of the night.”
Representative Mullin, a former MMA fighter himself with a deep knowledge of the sport, also repeatedly grilled Ratner regarding an assertion in Ratner’s opening statement, that boxers are treated like MMA fighters:
“When you say boxers are treated like MMA fighters, clarify that statement that you’re talking about the health of the fighter, but not the professional ranking system, and not about the financial disclosures, because there are distinct differences,” said Mullin, who represents Oklahoma’s 2nd district in the house. “And the Ali Act is the backstop to boxers. There is no backstop for MMA fighter. It’s take it or leave it, and that’s why I say the UFC has become the Don King of MMA.”
Mullin continued to grill Ratner over the UFC’s behavior in contract negotiations, citing when the UFC dropped Nate Diaz from the rankings in a contentious contract negotiation. The following was transcribed by me:
Mullin: What about Nate Diaz, who was dropped from the UFC because he was involved in contract negotiations? He was trying to negotiate with the UFC and they dropped him, is that true?
Ratner: I don’t pay attention to the rankings, but I’m sure that...
Mullin: You are involved in it all the time. Was he not dropped from the UFC?
Ratner: He’s still under contract to us...
Mullin: I’m talking about at the time.
Ratner: I’m sure you’ll see him fight again.
Mullin: I know that, but the answer to that is yes. And we go back to the same thing. When you were saying that [boxers and MMA fighters are treated the same way], what I’m trying to draw here is that they are not even close. When you make a broad statement like that, you are misleading Congress...
Ratner: Not at all
Mullin: ...and you are misleading the American people. When you make those statements, clarify specifically on what it is you are talking about, because once again you are talking about the health of the fighter. The Ali Act deals with the compensation of the fighter. It also deals with a merit-based ranking system.
Other Congresspeople went on to question Ratner and former UFC champion Randy Couture on fighter health, pay, and safety.
It will be fascinating to see whether this legislation will eventually pass and what effect it will have on MMA, and the UFC’s practices in particular. The UFC is not required to release financial figures currently. Currently, best estimates of fighter pay put it at about 15% of gross revenue, far less than the athlete’s share in team sports (where it is usually 50%) and boxing (where that figure can be even higher for marquee stars)
I interviewed Jon Fitch in regard to the above issues, and his ongoing class-action lawsuit against the organization. The interview begins at the 36 minute mark, with Jon Fitch talking about his last UFC fight against Demian Maia, and how he was cut by the UFC after fighting sick in that bout:
Jon also touched on this important debate broached in the hearing today:
This is getting to one of the major debates to be had in MMA right here: what rights to title or ranking do fighters have? Court cases have given boxers rights to theirs but not yet in mma— John S. Nash (@heynottheface) November 9, 2017
Darren Till didn’t have to try too hard to burn Stephen Thompson on Twitter:
Fighters campaign for Cub Swanson to fight Max Holloway at UFC 218:
It’s a guaranteed banger (as is Aldo), fights a fight, fuck it. Unfortunately Frankie got hurt. Sit back and enjoy— Justin Gaethje (@Justin_Gaethje) November 10, 2017
Even Nick Jonas got in on the action:
Fighter art in progress:
Jason Knight will be back in action against Gabriel Benitez:
Time for this again:
Bellator have announced they have signed a multi-fight deal with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. He is expected to return to the Bellator cage in early 2018.— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) November 9, 2017
I’ve got Valentina in this one:
Dominick Cruz got his own piece of MMA art:
GSP enjoyed visiting the halls of economic power today:
Joanna is enjoying her post-fight vacation as well, even after a knockout loss:
Now that I included this, I’m bound to make an equally embarrassing typo:
The undefeated Tiffany Van Soest hitting pads:
Slips, Rips, KO Clips
Podcasts and Video
Whitney Miller discusses UFC 217 and Glory 47. Check us out on SoundCloud as well as iTunes and Stitcher on the official MMA Mania channel!
Follow MMA Mania on Youtube to see Andrew Richarson break down all the fighters:
A Diego Sanchez retrospective:
Matt Brown chases fear:
The Fight Society Podcast:
Thank Derrick Lewis for this one