To fund union efforts, most often dues are imposed on members. In contrast, our association seeks to maximize the marketability, earnings, and status of professional mixed martial artists without the demand of “collective bargaining” with any promotion. Our model works, without requiring anything of any promoter.
I am a member of the American Bar Association (ABA), and have been for years. The
Another example directly related to the mixed martial arts industry is the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC). The ABC isn’t a union of any sort, nor do they intend to be. The ABC, however, plays a central role in shaping the sport by adopting uniform rules which are voted upon and approved by each of its constituent members. Additionally, by coming together under one association, the ABC was able to create a “badge of distinction” that they then made available to private enterprise. This distinction came in the form of “Official Certified Database for Mixed Martial Arts,” and this “official” recognition was provided to Mixed Martial Arts, LLC. This is value created solely by virtue of the individual commissions coming together under one umbrella to recognize one official database. No individual commission would have been able to create a badge of distinction of significant value, but together as a group, they created value to private enterprise that didn’t exist before.
What services would you offer fighters?
The MMAFA provides members with a platform for group licensing, branding, and effective lobbying. Large revenue streams are being claimed by private enterprise in the form of corporate sponsorships, advertising, memberships, and branded products. Talent isn’t even in the market for the vast majority of these revenue streams at all, because they don’t have a group to present to the corporate sponsors and gear providers, and they don’t have a group vehicle on the web to present to advertisers. Talent also has virtually no role in shaping the sport in which they compete, and in terms of influence, rank even below media. By coming together under one association, fighters will have a central voice in matters that impact the sport.
The model being utilized by the MMAFA has proven remarkably successful, over and over, and will provide its members with the same kinds of benefits, publicity, and protections as enjoyed by athletes in all of the other major professional sports.
The MMAFA provides its members with a brand that can be monetized through the sale of merchandise, and through licensing to third parties. The MMAFA also provides the following to all of its members:
- Media platform and publicity vehicle to promote and publicize the activities of our members;
- Revenue maximization through merchandising and licensing of collective brand; and
- Lobbying, and if necessary, litigation vehicle.
The MMAFA will provide all members with revenue streams they don’t currently enjoy at all, and by capturing this revenue, the MMAFA seeks to provide all of its full members with benefits. As the MMAFA matures, members decide how to allocate excess revenue, including distributions to the members. Currently, in the mixed martial arts industry, private parties in the form of gear and apparel providers, community websites, media sites, and others profit from the personalities of the athletes who make this sport great. Very little of this ancillary revenue is returned to the talent at all. The MMAFA provides a vehicle to capture a large portion of this ancillary revenue for the talent—the one element consistently sought out by the general public. Major websites openly admit that they are not involved in journalism--they are "content providers." The athletes are the "content" that is being sought out by fans.
Finally, the executive team of the MMAFA will be determined by the members, and the focus and direction of all activities will be decided by the members and their elected leadership.
In a best case scenario, how would Lorenzo Fertitta or Dana White respond to your open letter?
A number of parties have asked me to present my plan for the MMAFA to Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta, and I have requested a meeting with them through various channels. To date, I have received no response. Dana and Lorenzo are extremely busy, and I understand that. That said, I’d welcome the opportunity to meet with them, and they will hear the same things I have said to the agents and fighters.
Short of this, I would like to see a member of the media ask Lorenzo and Dana directly about the MMAFA, in much the same fashion as I presented in my letter. I will send a signed copy via federal express to Zuffa’s office, with some t-shirts and patches as well. They might get a kick out of that—if nothing else.
Our pitch centers around the notion that the MMAFA will maximize earnings for you—not only long term, but almost immediately. If this plan is adopted widespread, benefits will be realized in a short period of time. The founder of the email service “hotmail” approached the venture capitalist Tim Draper, and told Mr. Draper I will have 2.0 million users, within 2 years. Mr. Draper initially laughed at this idea, but eventually gave the initial seed money to this entrepreneur. Prior to the second anniversary of the company’s founding, hotmail had 2.5 million users. This was accomplished before twitter, facebook, digg, and text messaging were even invented. I have no doubt at all that tangible benefit will happen very quickly.
What are the other plans you mention in your letter?
Other plans that were being circulated over the past year involved “affiliating” with existing established unions, or obtaining “seed” money from various parties who would receive an ownership stake in the “association” or “union” that was thereby established. All of the other plans involved some variation of this general structure, and all suffer from two critical and fatal flaws. First, these plans, in one form or another, sought to “tax” fighter purses, an idea I have always vehemently opposed. Our model works without need of this confiscatory taxation type system. These plans appeal to proponents because they provide immediate benefits to the founders in the form of substantial salaries, and to the funding sources, because they have obtained a long-term revenue source with substantial growth opportunity through the “taxation” model. I have participated in numerous, animated debates with a number of people in the industry about the demerits of such a plan, which I do not believe to be in the best interest of the athletes at all. Next, in my experience, these plans do not have the widespread support needed to achieve success.
I believe our plan is also superior to any competing idea because it is the only plan that preserves, in tact, self-determination by the members.
Why is MMAFA a better choice?
First and foremost, our plan can achieve widespread support, and can be immediately successful. Fighters and instructors will control, by vote, the direction of the MMAFA. When I meet an agent or fighter for the first time to pitch the MMAFA, I immediately tell them that I am not an owner, and I am not a member. Most often, this is met with by a look of curiosity. I explain that for this venture to succeed, I had to be willing to do something entirely different. I
Can you also address why you think media friends are warning me off this story?
What we are doing is highly unusual, and against the grain. For many, this immediately arouses suspicion as people instantly think there must be something lurking below. I believe this is especially true in the mixed martial arts industry, where anyone who has been involved at any depth has been taken advantage of, deceived or otherwise betrayed at one time or another.
We challenge the status quo, and have been warned repeatedly about “rocking the boat.” I have been told that the “industry isn’t ready for me” numerous times, and still do not begin to understand that statement. I have done dozens and dozens of favors for certain members of the media, over the span of years, who have never once even inquired about what the MMAFA is.
I also believe this is a classic case of “people talking to people” who have never spoken with me.
Finally, the MMAFA is an association intentionally, by design. The difference between an “association” and a “union” is not semantic. I believe fear exists that any affiliation, even reporting on our efforts, will be met with consequences. Many assume the MMAFA is a union, dressed in sheep’s clothing. We do not present it as a union to anyone we visit, and we never have. That said, the future direction of the MMAFA is determined solely by the members. I am not a member, nor am I an owner. Thus, it is necessarily presumptuous of me or anyone else to speak as to the direction the members will choose at some future date.
Were you disappointed in the coverage that your Open Letter Received?
Disappointment requires surprise. I am not surprised by the coverage. When the MMAFA prepared our complaint against EliteXC, this marked the first time in the history of combat sports (that I am aware of) fighters took joint action together for a common goal. Curiously, MMA media sites naming EliteXC as the “story of the year” made no mention of our efforts. This has been a frequent occurrence, and may continue until the media learns more about what we are doing, and gains comfort with the thought that coverage will have no negative consequences for their careers.
We are thankful and greatly appreciative of any coverage the MMAFA receives, and I would gladly remove my name from anything should it mean that the MMAFA receives more exposure.
Over the past 7 years, I have assisted fighters and agents in filing lawsuits, arbitrations, negotiating contracts, in securing sponsorships, and in athletic commission hearings. The majority of the things I have done in the industry have never seen the light of day, and this was intentional. My goal has been the formation of the MMAFA.
How do you respond to contentions this is somehow a money grab?
With great amusement, and anyone who says this does not understand how the MMAFA works.
We have always rejected any plan that starts with the concept of “taxing” fighter purses. These plans are always endorsed by those who are seeking immediate benefit in the form of salaries and long-term revenue growth potential. I do not believe that these plans serve the best interests of the athletes. Our plan is much simpler, and requires us to actually provide value without any taxation of purses at all. I also oppose any plan that seeks to sell an ownership stake to outside parties, for the same reasons. To truly be an association, an association must be led and directed by the members—not outside third parties. The MMAFA will be led and directed by its members and their elected member representatives.
Our bylaws and constitution contain the following provision:
- “All professional mixed martial artists, their coaches and trainers shall be eligible for membership in the Association.”
All spending, including salaries or other compensation, will be approved by the members. Again, I am not a member. If we are not providing value to the membership, the members will not approve compensation. Further, when the MMAFA matures, the Executive Team will be determined, in the same fashion as the other sports, by the members.
Further, all property of the MMAFA, including the trademarks, logos, website, domains, and all other property of the MMAFA will be held in trust for the collective benefit of MMAFA members. I will recoup expenses (which I will have approved and verified by the members) incurred in the formation of the MMAFA at some future date, but beyond that, I am entitled to nothing. I am extremely confident in this plan, in my ability to execute, and know there are no others currently willing to take this risk.
What we are doing is highly unusual, but without such an unusual approach, the MMAFA would never form. Do we hope to make money? Of course, and I am extremely confident in the MMAFA’s success. We strongly believe the fans of the amazing sport of mixed martial arts will get behind and support the athletes who make this sport great.