As Mixed Martial Arts rose to mainstream popularity over the past several years, the question of whether a union is possible has risen with it. When Zuffa, parent company to the UFC, bought its leading competitor, Strikeforce, thus controlling nearly every fighter in the top 10 of all weight divisisions, the question took on special urgency for some.
While the NFL, NBL, NBA, and NHL each have players unions, making it appear as if all professional sports in the USA are unionized, moving just a little further down the list reveals a more varied group, with field leading organizations like the PGA, NASCAR, and USTA all without a players union.
So where does iconic fighter Randy Couture, on the cusp of retirment, come down on the idea of a players union in MMA?
“There’s going to be a battle,” Couture told ESPN.com. “I’d rather sit down with the UFC, Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta and figure out a way to implement some things with their blessing.”
“Health insurance for fighters when they’re not competing is a huge issue. There are a few fighters who could call up the UFC and say, ‘Look, I need some help, I blew out my knee in practice,’ and the UFC is going to help them. They’ve been generous but they can’t do that with everyone. There are over 200 fighters.
“How about a retirement plan of some sort? Or at least educate these guys on how to take care of their money. How many MMA stars, five or six years from now, are going to be broke and destitute? We’ve seen that in boxing, and it’s a shame. An absolute shame.”
“There’s a whole bunch of issues when you start unionizing. Look at football. The players are looking at a lockout because they might have to play two more games in a season and not increase their pay. I mean, why are you in the sport? Because you love to play the game, right?
“There’s a give and take there. [Unions] can sometimes get carried away.”
“It would be great to sit down and figure out a way to take care of the guys in this company so that everybody feels good about it and no one is in a position to have too much power or for a fighter to take advantage of a union and hold out."
“There’s got to be a way to come together and meet on ground that everyone can live with.”
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