UFC announces written Code of Conduct, with teeth

Thursday, January 24, 2013

At today’s FOX 6 pre-fight press conference, UFC COO Lawrence Epstein announced the compary would iniate a written code of conduct at the beginning of this weekend’s event. The UFC’s Conduct Policy does not represent a new policy, so much as it is a codifying existing standards.

Helping to implement the policy will be just announced UFC Vice President of Athlete Development and Government Relations Matt Hughes.

“The implementation of a written code of conduct for UFC athletes,” said Epstein. “There’s gonna be a huge connection with what Hughes does and our new code of conduct. It’s really not something that’s new, just something that’s been put in writing. We’ve always felt our athletes need to live up to a high level of conduct and the high standards of the UFC.

“This whole situation really started frankly when we took a look at the sports landscape and looked at what all the other major sports leagues were doing like the NFL, Major League Baseball, NHL, etc. We also took a look at what some of the associations are doing.

“I think, as many of you know, UFC’s relationship with athletes is an independent contractor relationship. It’s not like the relationship in the NFL where they’re actually employees of the team. We looked at some of those organizations that had similar legal models and what we discovered was those organizations had an individual who was responsible for what they call athlete development and what we’re calling athlete development also. The role of that person was first and foremost to be a mentor, to try and provide experience to hopefully keep guys out of trouble and stop guys from making mistakes that could affect both their career and could tarnish the image of mixed martial arts and the UFC.”

“We took a look at our roster of athletes and fighters who have helped built the sport. Matt Hughes is a great guy, has done a lot of good works throughout his career. Matt is going to be that guy for us. He’s going to be the mentor for our 450 athletes. He comes with a unique set of experiences and has been at the highest level of the sport. He knows the challenges that come along with that and will be providing that perspective to our athletes.

‘We’re trying to make the UFC the best place in the world for athletes and frankly to be second to none. I don’t think anybody is more focused on the relationship with athletes than Dana White is. We’ve developed the fighter healthcare program and this one today is the next step in the experience between UFC athletes and the organization.”

“Hughes will be an invaluable resource for UFC athletes. Leveraging the background and expertise he gained over a Hall of Fame career, Hughes will be dedicated to providing guidance on a wide range of issues athletes face inside and outside of the Octagon. This includes understanding the heightened social responsibility that comes with being in the public eye, to best practices when dealing with endorsements or managing finances, to the basic daily challenges of staying healthy during training, as well as the need to steer clear of illegal and/or performance-enhancing drugs.

“In addition to his work with UFC athletes, Hughes will engage with state athletic commissions and international federations to provide regulatory insight from the perspective of a professional athlete.”

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In an interview with Bleacher Report, Epstein provided further details.

“This stuff’s already frankly been in place for many, many years and we’ve always sort of had an unwritten code of conduct that we expected our athletes to live up to,” reiterated Epstein. “Now we put it in writing, that’s really the only change. There are some teeth in the program, penalties associated with violations, but as far as we’re concerned this policy is going into effect immediately.”

When asked about “the teeth” of the policy Epstein said that there would be financial penalties associated with violating the policy, but also some community service.

“For example, if you make a discriminatory comment about a certain community, you would be required to provide some community service to that community. In our view that’s going to turn into a benefit.  It’s easy to criticize people you don’t know, but once you get to know somebody, once you get to experience what they’re all about it sort of changes you as a person in a way that money or fines could never do.”

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