Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has thrown his hat into the ring of the mixed martial arts (MMA) unionization debate. Between discussing political ideas such as universal basic income and helping reduce student debt, Yang found time to tweet his support for extending the Ali Act to cover MMA.
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MMA fighters in the UFC receive only 10-15% of revenues vs. ~50% in other sports. I would apply the Ali Act to MMA and allow fighters to unionize. Firing @LeslieSmith_GF when her opponent didn’t make weight was clearly retaliatory. @danawhite should stop boasting about revenue.
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYangVFA) March 10, 2019
In the tweet, Yang stated “MMA fighters in the UFC receive only 10-15% of revenues vs. ~50% in other sports. I would apply the Ali Act to MMA and allow fighters to unionize.”
The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act was signed into law by Congress in May of 2000, aiming to protect the rights of boxers and increase the integrity of the boxing industry.
The act introduced provisions such as making promotions disclose their revenues earned from events to fighters. Currently, the UFC typically only shares this information with fighters who negotiate for a percentage of pay-per-view revenue in their contracts.
Other provisions include having championships belts and rankings organized by a third-party and instituting fighter favorable limitations on how long promoters can lock fighters into contracts.
In 2016 Congressman Markwayne Mullin—a former MMA fighter—introduced a bill which would expand the Ali Act to cover MMA promotions and fighters. Since then it has been a long, winding, and so far, an unsuccessful road to pass the bill through Congress and into law.
While many fighters are behind the idea of expanding rights to fighters and potentially unionizing, the UFC has opposed further regulation on the sport.
“We continue to believe the federal government would have no productive role in regulating MMA promotions or competitions,” UFC Chief Operating Officer Ike Lawrence Epstein told ESPN in 2016.
“Already, states regulate each bout and MMA athletes are well compensated and treated fairly.”
MMA fans are still split on whether introducing more regulation would benefit the sport, but having a presidential candidate highlighting the issue is sure to shine a bright light on the relationship between fighters and promoters.
Jay is an MMA fan who loves to torture himself by staying up late to catch fights.