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Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

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Thanks for nothing: Is Congress looking to bail UFC out of Ali Act change?

By Zach Arnold | November 22, 2017

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MMA fighters deserve the same limited legal protections as boxers. The fact that this is in dispute heading in 2018 is a disgrace to the American combat sports industry.

An even bigger disgrace? Offering a bailout carrot to UFC to get out of amending the Ali Act to cover MMA. The carrot? Nice business you got there, would be a shame if we changed your business model. The Department of Justice likes to call this “behavioral remedies.” In private industry, this would be called extortion – obtaining property or influence because of excessive and undue forces.

The kicker? An Oklahoma Republican is the one pushing for a big government solution in order for UFC to avoid amending the Ali Act.

When you boil it all down, there’s basically one principle from the Ali Act act that should apply to MMA fighters — the private right to sue to get out of an adhesive and unconscionable contract. The athletic commissions don’t enforce the Ali Act. Athletic commissions hate the Ali Act. If the Ali Act was enforced, how many boxing promoters would still be doing business?

Those in combat sports who have been pushing for changes to the Ali Act are doing so based on good intentions. Giving a fighter the right to sue in Federal court as opposed to state court is a minor but important gesture. It’s really the main benefit. Arguing over rankings, sanctioning bodies, OK, fine. I’m willing to listen but it’s a secondary concern and everyone knows it.

So instead of focusing on the single most important part of the Ali Act, we have a former fighter and Oklahoma Republican wanting to play fantasy matchmaker.

In general, I agree with the Congressman’s assertion that the current matchmaking we’re seeing in UFC largely stinks. It’s insulting that Marc Ratner says UFC has a fair ranking system because a bunch of goofy writers and sycophants are selecting which fighters are ranked where. But that’s not my problem. If I don’t want to watch the UFC product, I won’t pay for it. So much for the ideology of free markets with an Oklahoma Republican. I don’t need a government bailout of UFC to avoid giving fighters the right to sue out of coercive contracts in exchange for the Feds controlling matchmaking practices.

What Markwayne Mullin’s proffer tells me is one of two things:

a) He’s looking for a way out of amending the Ali Act because Trump doesn’t want to change it or the pressure from lobbyists is too great, or;

b) Mullin never was serious about giving fighters legal rights to sue and that this whole exercise was basically about him being a giant fanboy because he doesn’t like what fights are getting booked

The notion that fighter rankings matter in negotiations is delusional. Conor McGregor shattered that myth with the Floyd Mayweather fight. Georges St. Pierre shattered that notion when he fought Michael Bisping at MSG.

Title belts mean one thing to UFC and MMA promotions – the dreaded Champion’s Clause of being able to extend a fighter’s contract and pay scale. You want to give fighters a chance to make more money in business? Give fighters a private right of action to sue in Federal court. Eliminate the Champion’s Clause. Start there and everything else flows from that change.

Focusing on rankings and “real league systems” is message board malarkey.

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