Ronda Rousey and UFC Stars Take a Swing at Horrible California MMA Legislation

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterApril 26, 2012

Rob Maysey's Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association seems to have been a colossal flop.

The organization attempted to bring fighters together to "maximize the influence and earning capacity of its members in the sport of mixed martial arts." Maysey told me last year that the tyranny of Dana White and Zuffa was holding the fighters back.

"Currently, the business of mixed martial arts is akin to the old 'studio system' that dominated Hollywood, where the fates of actors were left entirely to the mercy of idiosyncratic studio executives and owners," Rob Maysey said.

Maysey, a long-time advocate for fighter's rights, runs the Mixed Martial Arts Fighter's Association. He says the lack of a viable competitor makes an organization like his more necessary than ever.

"In MMA, the athletes may be at an even greater disadvantage, as only one major 'producer' (the UFC) remains. Monopolies in the existing team sports arguably serve to maximize the earnings potential, level of competition and brand power of existing leagues.

"The monopolistic power enjoyed by these leagues, however, is necessarily offset with a counter balance in the form of a strong association representing the interests of the athletes.  Without such protection, the athletes face a future that may resemble the studio actors prior to the emergence of the Screen Actors Guild and other protections afforded by law."

It turns out that fighters were more comfortable with their agents and managers helping them maximize earnings, rather than an Association. Maysey wasn't able to galvanize much support. One veteran agent told me he was "too fanatical" and that his dismissal of the UFC didn't sit well with the fighters who have become wealthy working with Zuffa.

For the most part, Maysey faded from the scene—but it's become obvious that he had no intention of disappearing entirely. It appears that he is now working behind the scenes, trying to do legislatively what he couldn't manage in the free market. If fighters didn't want to support the MMAFA  of their own free will, why not force them into it with the power of the state?

Yesterday, California Congressman Luis A. Alejo, with Maysey riding shotgun in support, introduced California AB2100 and managed to get the bill out of committee and before the Assembly as a whole.

The legislation reads like an MMAFA manifesto. It looks to abolish what they consider exploitative contracts, charge the UFC an exorbitant five percent of their pay-per-view income from events in California and essentially kill MMA in the state on all levels.

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While Frank Shamrock and Antonio McKee spoke on behalf of the legislation, Strikeforce star Ronda Rousey was a vocal critic, telling the committee she was making good money after only a year of fighting professionally.

"I didn't get that way through bad contracts," Rousey said. "This is a performance-based business. You have to make yourself valuable. I win, and I make myself entertaining to watch, and that's why this company pays me.

"...This bill is being presented as something to help the athletes. It wouldn't help me renegotiate a contract. I would enter into a contract. Even if I'm happy with it and they're happy with it, and I went and told all my friends 'Oh my God, I have a UFC contract, that's so cool,' someone that I don't know and doesn't know me or anything about my financial situation could take a look at this contract, say they don't like it, and instead of helping me renegotiate it, pull the promoter's license."

In the end, debate over this legislation is just noise. No single state could hope to enact any meaningful change. As UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta explained, this legislation would simply demand that any responsible business promote shows anywhere but California:

It is therefore troubling that AB2100 would specifically impede bringing business to California and would intentionally drive the business to states with a more reasonable tax and regulatory framework.

Indeed, AB2100 would remove the economic certainty of television taxes and would place an undue and unacceptable burden on all promoters of televised unarmed combat.

Thus, the proposed tax structure would actually result in fewer events in California, and would directly harm California’s athletes, arenas, hotels, restaurants, shopkeepers and all of their respective employees and families.

I don't believe that this legislation is necessary. Fighters are free to negotiate deals that work for them. If they are unhappy with the UFC, they can find another party to promote their fights.

For the most part, fighters haven't, and won't, because the UFC pays well, on time, and offers tons of options for earning ancillary income.

It's a system that isn't broken. The last thing it needs is an incompetent California legislature meddling where it doesn't belong.


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