There is no compelling reason why boxers are protected by a bill of rights, while MMA fighters are not. Bothsports are regulated by state athletic commissions. More significantly, MMA suffers from some of the sameills that have plagued boxing over the years. These ills led to the 2000 passage of the Muhammad Ali BoxingReform Act (Ali Act), a federal law that protects boxers from exploitative business practices. The time hascome for regulators to extend similar protections to MMA fighters.It is all the more appropriate to move forward with these protections now ± just days after athletes andcelebrities across the world converged on this city to celebrate the 70
birthday of Muhammad Ali. One wayto build on Ali¶s remarkable legacy, as an athlete and as a lifelong champion of humanitarian causes, is towork toward protecting the dignity and well-being of athletes from the unscrupulous few who attempt toexploit them.Many of the MMA athletes who agreed to speak with us said they feel exploited and undervalued. Many believe the sport of mixed-martial arts has been hijacked by business interests that are more interested inmaximizing their own profits, and promoting their own brands, than in furthering the integrity of this sport.We will not itemize here today the full litany of concerns raised by professional mixed-martial artists, because it would simply take too long and the Commission may be familiar with many of them. In general,athletes said they struggle against the following abuses:a)
ong-term, exclusivity contracts that bind an athlete to a single promoter, in some casesindefinitely
. Some contracts contain ³automatic renewal´ provisions or a ³champion¶s clause,´which automatically extends the contract of a fighter who becomes a champion.
Such clauses makeit more difficult for athletes to negotiate higher pay and diminish the incentive of smaller promotersto bid for talented fighters. b)
imited control over image and likeness rights
. Some contracts with promoters require an athleteto relinquish rights to his own image and likeness ³in perpetuity,´ or forever.
The fighter must agreeto forfeit future revenue streams from DVD sales, video games, clothing and other merchandising,even after retirement.
ack of financial transparency.
Under the Ali Act, promoters are required to make extensivefinancial disclosures to state athletic commissions, including copies of all written agreements with boxers participating in a match.
No such requirements govern MMA under federal law or Nevadalaw. As a result, MMA fighters often have to negotiate in the dark and are unsure if they are beingcompensated fairly.
In 2008, two fighters who objected to signing away their image and likeness rights for a video game were cut by their promoter.
Both fighters were later rehired.This Commission has shown leadership in the past in advancing rules that make unarmed combat safer andmore transparent. In 1998, two members of this Commission testified before a committee of the U.S. Senate
Swift, Adam, ³Inside the Standard Zuffa Contract,´
, Oct. 31, 2007,http://www.sherdog.com/news/articles/Inside-the-Standard-Zuffa-Contract-9734
Section 13, ³Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act,´http://www.ftc.gov/os/mabra/aliact.pdf
Gilbert, Mark, ³Fitch cut as UFC wield the axe,´
, Nov. 20, 2008,http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/1952333/Welterweight-star-Jon-Fitch-has-been-axed-by-the-UFC-after-a-row-over-image-rights.html