When you write about MMA, you get texts from friends before every big UFC event. Last night’s UFC Live 4 card was no exception. The odd last-minute main event switch prompted a deluge of messages as soon as Stephan Bonnar‘s raspy voice hit the air.

Pretty much everyone wanted to know why Nate Marquardt was pulled off the card. We know that it has something to do with his failed medicals and that UFC president Dana White is not happy about it. I directed my police officer friend to the cell phone video of White venting.

White managed to refrain from the colorful language that has gotten him into trouble in the past, but he still fired a nearly six-year employee in a cell phone video while wearing a t-shirt. This did not sit well with my police officer friend. After all, cops enjoy some of the strongest union protection.

I assume that Marquardt has gotten himself into some pretty hot water. However, that is not really the point. When it comes to the UFC, there is no due process, no appeals process and no recourse. If you irk the bald expletive machine, you better check youtube to see if you have been fired.

In May, the UFC announced that all fighters under contract would receive health insurance that would cover training injuries and accidents. In a lot of ways, this silenced calls for a fighter’s union. The fact that the promotion gives fighters insurance, does not change the fact that their number one goal is making money.

Several high-profile MMA websites have “uncovered” the fact that union involvement has tried to prevent legalizing MMA in New York. White even said “union idiots” are fighting against him. Why does this shock people? Unions, by definition, fight for the rights of workers. The UFC and the Fertitta brothers’ other business venture, Station Casinos, have a less than stellar reputation when it comes to dealing with labor.

This should not be news to anyone who has followed the UFC. Do you remember the “championship clause” that automatically extends a champion’s contract if they win? Do you remember that UFC fighters are independent contractors, but are still exclusive to the promotion? Do you remember that most fighters are required to relinquish all rights to their own image and likeness in perpetuity?

In 2008, Jon Fitch and a few other American Kickboxing Academy fighters refused to give up their image and likeness rights in perpetuity. The following quote from White to Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole was the result. Oh yeah, Fitch was also released.

“We’re looking for guys who want to work with us and not against us, and frankly I’m just so [expletive] sick of this [expletive] it’s not even funny. Affliction is still out there trying to build its company. Let [Fitch] go work with them. Let him see what he thinks of those [expletives]. [Expletive] him. These guys aren’t partners with us. [Expletive] them. All of them, every last [expletive] one of them.”

MMA should be legal and regulated everywhere. However, making labor unions the enemy in New York is backwards. These business practices are exploitative. As previously stated, unions are designed to advance the rights of workers. Perhaps White and the promotion should look at the way they do business instead of looking for someone to blame.

24 thoughts on “Mann Talk – Marquardt situation highlights labor issues in the UFC”
  1. All unions are destroying America. Employers don’t owe people who work for them anything, but an agreed to wage or salary, the employee does his job and the employer pays up. Screw all these unions.

  2. I understand the POV…guys will always fight if you pay them enough…in regards to how Dana announced that Marquardt was fired…he may have told Nate and camp before he made the announcement…who knows…

    However, the reason Dana wears t-shirts and makes announcements via youtube, etc is because he knows that once it’s posted online…websites will spread it like wildfire and it’ll it linked to Facebook where they have like 6 million fans and he won’t have to answer any questions from ‘media’ per se.

    He says what he needs/wants to say in :14 seconds and within 30 minutes it’s everywhere….the same websites he trashes help him spread that message…pretty slick.

  3. @Kelvin, I agree that is it effective from a media savy stand point, but that does not make it proper or professional. Think about the uproar Dan Gilbert caused when he insulted Lebron James for leaving. Dana White does that kind of thing on a weekly basis and gets a free pass.

    In a real sport, Marquardt would have protection from simply being fired.

  4. @Eddie – before you resort to the typical “unions are destroying america” nonsense, maybe you should look up a few things that unions have done for Americans…just to name a few, because of unions we have; 1. paid holidays, 2. overtime pay, 3. health insurance, 3.safer working conditions, 4. no child labor, 5. family and medical leave act, 6. paid sick leave, 7. eight hour work day and so on… this isn’t to say that unions are perfect, but too many people have benefited from them to completely condemn them…

  5. I agree with everything written above. I believe that fighters do need protection in some form
    From simply being fired. However based on the UFC’s previous record with regards to fighters not making weight etc Dana and co are pretty forgiven. Pissed off but you’ll probably fight again in the UFC. The Marquardt issue however is different because apparently he was going to make weight so that wasn’t the issue.

    I think that even with Unions in MMA there will still be offences committed which can
    Be punishable by firing -just like any job- for example substance abuse, continuing to not make weight etc…so perhaps even with unions Nate Marquardt would have still been fired. With Unions they could have some sort of unfair dismissal policy but that would bring to light everything that happened that Fighters nights not appreciate…I’m not sure how having a Union can protect a fighter from anything serious they do wrong. They get paid for fighting and if they are under review for doing something wrong they’re not going to be fighting.

  6. @Paul. You make a very astute point. Marquardt has probably done something that warrants his release. However, with the lack of a union, White does not even have to mind his P’s and Q’s. He can basically release people on a whim.

    Look at the NFL for example. When players are suspended for banned substances, or anything, they have the ability to appeal because they have union protection. That is not present in the UFC. To make matters worse, White knows he has absolute power over his employees and is rarely afraid to use it.

    The guy went on national television and promised to fire an employee if he put on another boring fight.

  7. I would hate to think I couldn’t fire someone from my own company. I watched a documentary the other day about this guy who gave his employees the option to either quit smoking or be terminated. Gave them six months I believe to get off cigarettes. All but two chose to quit smoking and they were fired. However, when you’re talking about “Independent Contractors” yet you are still providing Insurance it all gets tricky. Still, if I’m running a company I want to be able to fire someone for any reason at all. You should have the right to say who works for you.

  8. Chris, before you make an uneducated comment, trying doing something first. As I’m sure you never owned, ran or operated a business. Unions are not responsible for bringing health insurance for workers, etc. Unions are in the business of Unions, not representing the working class.

    Most non-profits actually turn a profit but don’t pay taxes on it and unions are comparable. They have driven up the costs of doing business in this country, moved jobs oversees and helped contribute to our LAZY workforce in this country. Stop, before you say something else that’s stupid to try to dispute what I’m saying research your facts. We are now 17th in the world in math, work the shortest work day of all industrialized countries, and yet we pay our union employees 27% more than other employees. Tell me the GM MODEL works you idiot

  9. If one of my employees just cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars and exposed me to the possibility of a lawsuit like Nate did you can bet I would have fired them in my boxer shorts on Good Morning America… No pissant Union would have stopped me either.
    Steve you are totally correct about Unions in America we have not needed them in many many years…

  10. I think Dana’s decision will make much more sense once we know the reality of the situation.

    Let’s see what Nate’s comments are then we can praise or roast Dana.

    Until then there’s no point to this.

  11. Actually, wayne and steve, unions are a ‘necessary evil’. They may be far from perfect, but then so is democracy, and if you had a clue you’d at least realize that unions are a byproduct of democracy. And so I support unions and democracy even though I know the average voter has the intelligence of wayne or steve…

    (of course this doesn’t necessarily mean I support unions in MMA promotions. At this point I probably don’t)

  12. If the fighters are unhappy with Dana they can go fight in Bellator or some bingo hall, otherwise quit whining and try starting your own MMA company…

  13. @Edub. The fighters need the UFC and the UFC needs the fighters. That is how the whole collective bargaining thing works. Unlike boxing, the UFC has marketed themselves like a professional wrestling promotion, which has created fans of the UFC and not of the fighters. However, I still do not think they would do as strong business with scab-level fighters.

  14. This article is so dumb. How do you know that Dana White didnt fire Nate Marquardt in person before making the vdieo? And who the hell cares what some police officer thinks about the video? What, is he some labor relations/human resources legal expert? Once again Richard Anderson Mann has missed the story….

  15. Good Piece. Too bad more in MMA Media don’t follow suit.

    Either they’re afraid to speak out or they’re putting blinders on because they want to believe MMA is a mainstream sport along the same lines as baseball, golf, etc.

    They don’t want to admit to themselves the sport is dominated by a company that’s has little to no respect for the media, the fighters who actually are the event or the gullible fans who keep forking money hand over fist to these tyrants.

    Just once I’d like to see someone with the balls to put the Fertitta’s on the hot seat about Station Casinos. What’s happened there with the Workers and the bankruptcy situation is outrageous.
    These are NOT good people.

    I myself love the sport of MMA but cannot and will not support the Zuffa product.

    btw I see reading some of the idiotic comments Dana White still has his loyal nuthuggers who think he’s cool and come out to defend him.
    Wake up people and get a clue. Don’t be a sheep all of your life.

  16. Goddamn copycat above me. Cmon Prommanow, how you gonna let someone else use that name?

    Again, not edub (the one and only).

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