UFC: Do MMA Contracts Require the Inclusion of Unsafe Act Clauses?

James MacDonaldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2012

Courtesy of MMA Mania
Courtesy of MMA Mania

With all of the UFC’s current issues with injuries and withdrawals, one wonders whether it might be worth adding an unsafe act clause to future fighter contracts.

As I pointed out yesterday, fighters are already gambling with their health by engaging in unsafe training practices. Do we really need to worry about whether they are speeding down the motorway on a death machine—more commonly known as a motorcycle?

People have occasionally joked about the sheer silliness of the UFC’s decision to hand out motorbikes as a prize to its fighters, but Jose Aldo turned that particular punchline on its head recently.

While riding his motorcycle in Brazil two weeks ago, the featherweight king was hit by a car. Fortunately, he escaped with relatively minor injuries—though perhaps not as minor as we first thought.

The news coming out of his camp in the days that followed the accident was positive. The main concern was a swollen foot, but by all accounts it was healing fast. Not too long afterwards, however, news filtered through that Aldo’s injured foot would prevent him from taking on Frankie Edgar.

Wasn’t Frank Mir’s horrific motorcycle accident sufficiently harrowing? It almost cost the then heavyweight champion his career, while simultaneously sending his personal life into a tailspin.

Naturally, fighters must accept some personal responsibility for their actions. They are the ones who make the decisions, after all.

With that said, Dana White and Co. would be wise to take care of their assets. I am not normally one who speaks out against personal autonomy, but the athletes do have a responsibility to their employers.

If they cannot meet those responsibilities, one could argue that they should be stripped of certain dangerous privileges. How exactly this would be implemented is another question entirely.

Harley Davidson wouldn’t be thrilled about any decision by the UFC to ban its fighters from riding motorcycles. For one thing, it would make a mockery of the oft-heard “only motorcycles worthy of being in the Octagon” line.

However, the UFC may need to follow the lead of other sporting bodies that have not only banned certain extracurricular activities, but taken a hard-line stance against other seemingly benign hobbies.

Indeed, many of the more valuable soccer players in the English Premier League have been banned from engaging in sporting activities while off the clock.

The UFC needn’t go that far, but if its fighters won’t make responsible decisions of their own volition while training for a fight, maybe they need to be contractually obligated to use some common sense.

At the risk of taking back everything I have just said, we must recognize that this issue isn’t pervasive. I mean, we’re not talking about the cast of The Fast and the Furious here. There is no motorcycle epidemic, thankfully.

A more pressing issue is the unsafe training methods employed by many fighters on the UFC roster. Addressing that particularly virulent problem should be the UFC’s top priority.

Maybe once the fighters have learned to train with some degree of caution, we can then focus on dangerous methods of transportation.