According to Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen, Jeff Borris, the veteran MLB agent is introducing two advisory boards this week in an effort to unionize the UFC. One board will be made up of MMA agents and the other of UFC fighters.
Borris announced plans in August to form a union for UFC fighters and without giving too much detail about who would be on the boards, he expects to have about five agents and nine fighters, both men and women. He is working towards triggering a union election by getting the signature of 180 UFC fighters, or 30% of the 600 UFC fighters under contract. Earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter reported “some 90 UFC fighters banded together” behind Borris’ effort, a number that drew the attention of some MMA insiders.
“I am optimistic the union will come into being sometime during 2017, where I will collectively bargain on behalf of the fighters to get the many things they need,” he said.
If he gets 30% of the fighters under contract it could start a process rolling at the National Labor Relations Board, but it could take two or three years to resolve if the UFC chooses to fight unionization, said Bill Gould, Stanford Law School professor and former chairman of the NLRB.
“Thirty percent is the threshold to hold an election,” Gould said. But before holding an election, the NLRB would have to resolve the question of whether UFC fighters are employees or independent contractors.
Only employees can unionize. The UFC contends the fighters are contractors, while Borris says they are employees.
The NLRB could determine the answer to that question in a matter of months, Gould said. But if the NLRB decides to hold the election and unionization wins, the UFC could “refuse to bargain and they could appeal that to the court of appeals,” which would add time to the process.
Borris admits there is little chance the UFC would recognize a union. “They will not,” he said. “Well, I cannot say that with absolute certainty, but all early signs are they are not interested in dealing with a union.”
The UFC declined to comment for this story.