By Zach Arnold | March 29, 2016
UFC is the only major combat sports promoter that lobbies in California. They use a high-level Sacramento firm called Platinum Advisors LLC. Their point man is Tim Lynch. He has some of the biggest clients, including the Golden State Warriors. It’s also the lobbying firm of Liberty Dental, the company of California State Athletic Commission chairman John Carvelli.
Like clockwork, UFC spends 6-figures a year lobbying in Sacramento on behalf of issues related to the California State Athletic Commission. Given California’s importance, a 6-figure price tag is a cheap date if you ask me. They own the power.
Part of this power comes in strange & unusual ways. One bill the UFC tried to influence in 2015 was Assembly Bill 202, known as the Oakland Raiders cheerleader employment bill. The intent of the bill was to have California law apply to cheerleaders for sports franchises, thus converting these cheerleaders from independent contractors into employees with full labor rights. It also would have provided the possibility of… unionization. The Assemblywoman who wrote AB 202 was a labor leader.
How did UFC end up being excluded from having to classify their Octagon girls as employees in California? A look at the final text of the bill reveals…
(1) “California-based team” means a team that plays a majority of its home games in California.
(3) “Professional sports team” means a team at either a minor or major league level in the sport of baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey, or soccer.
Bingo. No application of this law to combat sports and to a non-California company like UFC which doesn’t use the team franchise business model.
This is how UFC flexes their muscle in the lobbying game. They have political control over the state Athletic Commission. The Fertittas have tentacles in the state’s gambling economy. They can do this because nobody else in combat sports is even trying to play the game. Bellator and other promoters can enjoy the fruits of UFC’s political lobbying but when push comes to shove, UFC is the first to get what they want because they actually bother to show up to do the dirty work. Even when it comes to cheerleaders.