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Midnight Mania! NFL star A.J. Hawk says Conor McGregor could bring collective bargaining to the UFC

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Former NFL linebacker A.J. Hawk says that if he really wanted to make a difference for his fellow fighters, Conor McGregor could bring collective bargaining to the UFC.

The NFL, like most mainstream sports, has collective bargaining in place, in the form of a union. Because the UFC does not consider their fighters employees, but independent contractors, it would be incredibly difficult to legally form a union with them. Associations are the collective bargaining format that lends itself more readily to organizing independent contractors, but the various fighter associations that have cropped up, including the Professional Fighters’ Association (PFA), the Mixed Martial Arts Fighter’s Association (MMAFA) and the ill-fated MMAAA (Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association) have failed to gain ground with most of the fighters on the roster.

Because of collective bargaining, the NFL splits about 50% of gross revenue with athletes. Because the UFC is privately held, it doesn’t release financial figures, making it difficult to see exactly how many millions of dollars the fighters bleed for, but never see. Best estimates of UFC fighter revenue share range from 10-17%.

Hawk, who spent months off the field during a lockout between NFL players and management, said in an interview with that having collective bargaining in place has been crucial to getting the best deal for athletes who often sacrifice their long-term brain health for their sports careers.

“Having the NFLPA is huge,” he told MMAjunkie Radio. “I don’t know how the NFL would be without the union.”

He has taken an interest in cage fighting since retiring from his NFL career, and its not difficult for him to see how collective bargaining could help the athletes in cages.

“It would really help them out to have a collective bargaining agreement, where they could come together and you had someone to back you when you’re fighting a suspension, or you’re fighting for more pay from Reebok,” he said. “You want a bigger piece of the pie.”

He also says that a figure like Conor McGregor could bring such changes about... though he admits it isn’t likely.

“If (the fighters) want to realize what kind of power they have – it would be absurd to think they could do it – but let’s say Conor gets booked on a fight,” Hawk said. “He’s headlining. If they shut down the fight – if Conor goes about his business, and all of a sudden, the day of, he says, ‘No, we’re not fighting unless we get these terms, and we’re going to come together, (and) this card does not happen tonight,’ – if it was for a card like that and you shut down a whole card.

“I just don’t know how you get all the fighters to come together, because you’re asking people to sit out fights and not get paid, possibly, for the greater good of the future of the sport. It’s just really tough to get everyone on the same page.”

But when questioned about the efforts of Georges St. Pierre and the MMAAA to recruit him at the beginning of 2017, McGregor was critical of their attempts, and said while he sees there should be something in place, he doesn’t see his role in this particular fight.

“There needs to be something – I just don’t know what it is, McGregor said. “I’m focusing on me. I’m focusing on my family’s security, my family’s financial security. That’s all I can do. So I when I saw that, I just thought it was the biggest, fakest load of (expletive) I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Hawk laid out the scenario. The Irish star could single-handedly elevate the conditions for his fellow mixed martial artists fighting at the higest levels. It is, however, unlikely McGregor would abandon pure self-interest and follow this playbook. From what we have seen, McGregor is more interested in building his own fortune, more focused on becoming a member of the capitalist class than opposing it.


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