Luis Alejo -- a former amateur wrestler, and a day one fan of Mixed Martial Arts -- aired a bill on Wednesday that proposes new rights to aspiring Mixed Martial Artists. The bill is very similar to boxing's Muhammed Ali Act; it essentially looks to free up fighters on contract clauses that prevent them from earning money from possible sponsorships, from competiting in competitions outside of the organization that they are contracted with, and gives them rights to their identity (which most fighters give up when signing a contract; i.e. fighters give up identity rights which allow them to be used in video games, or to have their names or pictures placed on merchandise).
Alejo is looking to eliminate abusive contracts and give fighters the chance to earn more money as they aspire for their dream. "I'm a fan of the sport. I've been a fan since the first fight in 1993. But we're trying to create some fairness and equity for these fighters in these contracts," says Alejo.
It is no secret that aspiring MMA fighters make little to no money in fights that they need to compete in, in order to reach the next level of competition. As an amateur MMA fighter myself, I put in 20 to 30 hours of training a week, and compete for free all in hopes of just making it to the lowest level of professional competiton (where fighters are paid as low as $50 per fight).
The bill is supported by unions and many professional fighters including former Uiltimate Fighting Champion, Frank Shamrock, but is opposed by Ultimate Fighting Championships parent company Zuffa LLC, and San Jose's venue the HP Pavillion which host Strikeforce (The current runner up to the dominate organization UFC). The bill, if passed, would currently be effective only in California, which means that organizations could choose to host events in other states. This would mean that California would be losing out on millions of dollars contributed by MMA events, which HP officials claim is currently $6 million to San Jose's economy.
Your paycheck as a fighter generally depends on your popularity, performance and Pay-Per-View draw (In organizations that broadcast via PPV), i.e "The more money you make us, the more we pay you" type of deal. Current Strikeforce women's champion Ronda Rousey put it as "This is a performance-based business. If you're bad at your job, you shouldn't expect people to pay you."
While there is truth to this statement in elite level organizations, it does not do justice to those who are looking to simply make it to those levels. Aspiring fighters generally work full time jobs on top of training, many have families and children they are supporting and simply cant survive off of fighting alone. Training is expensive! Fighters training at world class gyms pay several hundred dollars per month, not to mention the cost of proper dieting, gear, and medical cost if injured. Fighting is taxing on the mind and the body; it also takes an extreme amount of dedication to compete, several hundred dollars per fight just does not cut it.
Many fighters have remained silent about the bill, likely in fear of not being given the chance to fight for organizations that oppose what is being proposed.
If passed this could very well change the lives of aspiring fighters and give them the oppurtunity to make a real run at their dream. MMA is still a very new and misunderstood sport, and people don't understand what these men and women go through on a daily basis, putting their bodies and minds through physical and emotional agony, living on a dream in hopes that one day maybe all of the hard work will pay off; and if they are lucky maybe these astonishing athletes will earn what the average human being earns working the daily shift at McDonalds.