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Leslie Smith planning legal action against UFC for creating ‘climate of fear’

Leslie Smith wasn’t able to compete in the final fight of her Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contract last weekend (Sat., April 21, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 128 after her opponent, Aspen Ladd, came in heavy during the official weigh-ins.

Not even a rumored $5,000 offer from Ladd was enough to convince Smith to take the bout; though Smith says that offer was never given. As a result, the promotion opted to pay Leslie her full “show” and “win” money which totaled $62,000, in essence equaling a buyout since UFC showed no interest in bringing her back.

Now, “The Peacemaker” is about to bring the war to the promotion inside a courtroom, as the Project Spearhead leader intends to sue UFC for what she deemed to be "illegal practices."

“It’s my opinion that what the UFC did was illegal,” Smith said during a recent interview on The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting). “Because they have created a situation where it encourages a climate of fear where the other people in the UFC on the roster are going to be fearful of publicly organizing and standing up for their rights,” she added.

“By creating a climate of fear, that violates federal law. That’s the whole point of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the laws that are in there.”

“I am surprised,” Smith said of the UFC parting ways with her. “I think that it opens up an examination of how they feel about my activities in organizing the fighters recently. I think by doing unusual behavior, it’s going to ask what are the unusual circumstances leading to this?”

As far as getting bought out, Smith explains why she couldn’t accept the fight when it was all said and done.

“I feel like if I didn’t do that at this point, it wouldn’t be living up to everything I’ve been talking about,” Smith said. “That’s why I couldn’t take the fight once they offered me the $62,000, because then I would be fighting for free,” she stated. “And that’s been my whole point this whole time. We shouldn’t be manipulated by pride. We need to look at ourselves as a business and fight for the large sums of money that we deserve.”

While Smith’s union movement is still ongoing, she feels the fact that the promotion parted ways with her proves her efforts have hit a collective nerve. Furthermore, she is still 100-percent moving forward with Project Spearhead in hopes of having the NLRB consider UFC fighters employees and not independent contractors.

“I guess in a way I was almost hoping that Project Spearhead would be significant enough for them to be a little bit worried about it,” Smith said. “And then the fact that they did this unprecedented thing where they bought out my contract, so that I wouldn’t be around anymore kind of shows that they do think Project Spearhead is pretty significant.”

Smith was riding a two-fight win streak going into her last UFC fight, with her last loss coming against Cris Cyborg in 2016. And while she is no longer under a contract with any promotion, she still has a couple of big legals fights ahead of her.

“The important thing now is to make it so that other fighters don’t have to take the fall,” Smith said. “They don’t have to do anything publicly in order to protect themselves right now. All they have to do is sign authorization cards. That’s it. Nobody will ever know. The National Labor Relations Board will never release their names.”

According to the report, the deadline for Smith to obtain the 30-percent of UFC fighters’ signatures she needs to take her case to NLRB is Feb. 12, 2019. As for the promotion, they have to brace themselves for yet another lawsuit battle.

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