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Midnight Mania! Leslie Smith reveals why it runs against the grain for fighters to insist on their worth

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The events surrounding the UFC paying Leslie Smith not to fight this past weekend have been well documented; it is hardly a leap in logic to surmise that their actions were motivated by a desire to get rid of Leslie due to her efforts to organize Project Spearhead, a prospective fighters’ union.

Her interview with MMAJunkie.com revealed why it is so difficult and counter-intuitive for fighters to stand up to their promoter outside the Octagon. At the end of the day, they just want to be in the cage, fighting. She said that literally fighting for free- the situation the UFC put her in by offering her the same amount of money to NOT fight- was extremely tempting. In fact, she would have been risking half her paycheck, over $30,000, by taking the bout with Aspen Ladd. Despite how little sense it makes logically to take the fight in that scenario, Smith says she regrets it. She badly wanted to be in the cage throwing hands with Ladd that night.

“I kept looking at the fighters and being like, ‘Wow, they’re in great shape and they’re intense and they’re tough,’” Smith said. “Then I’d think, ‘Hey, I’m in great shape and I’m intense and I’m tough. I’m a UFC fighter just like them.’ That’s when I’d catch myself and realize, I’m not. I’m not a UFC fighter anymore.”

“We are a very results-based society, but I feel confident right now that I’ve made the best decision,” Smith said. “Yeah, my pride hurts. A part of me is probably going to regret not taking that fight for the rest of my life. I definitely regret it right now, and I definitely regretted it when I was watching the fights on Saturday night.

“But I still think standing up for myself was the right thing to do. And the way I am, when I see the right thing to do, I can’t really stop myself.”

Project Spearhead is going to go after the UFC legally for their actions, which will be an interesting fight to watch unfold. The goal of Project Spearhead is to get 30% of the UFC roster to sign the anonymous cards, so they can approach the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Board, to get a review of the UFC fighters employment status and determine if they have been wrongly classified as independent contractors, and should in fact be employees, with all the legal protections and benefits that status provides (including, most importantly, the ability to unionize). However, it is possible the UFC’s punitive actions in firing Leslie could trigger an NLRB review without needing 30% of the fighters on board.

Leslie Smith’s pride means setting up a Go Fund Me wasn’t easy for her.

“The ultimate goal is to get representation for the fighters,” Smith said. “It’s not a situation where I’m trying to get this amount of money or whatever. That’s not the goal. The goal is representation.”

She hopes her sacrifice will make it easier for other fighters to get on board with the effort.

“They don’t have to stick their necks out and do it the way I did,” Smith said. “No one has to do it the way I did.”


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