A fighters union for mixed martial artists has been a hot-button topic lately, and last week a new group formed hoping to further that agenda in the UFC.
The Professional Fighters Association (PFA) issued a release announcing its intention to organize athletes in the Las Vegas-based promotion “so that they may collectively bargain their terms and conditions of employment pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act.” Led by a group that includes baseball agent Jeff Borris, labor attorney Lucas Middlebrook and economist Andrew Zimbalist and backed by players’ unions in other professional sports, the PFA seems to have a promising foundation.
However, any fighters’ union would need to a prominent face from within, and right now, there is perhaps no one more influential in the UFC than Conor McGregor. The Irishman, who faces Nate Diaz in the UFC 202 headliner on Saturday, recognizes the need to unite, in large part because he is still impacted by witnessing the death of Brazilian fighter Joao Carvalho due to injuries suffered in a bout earlier this year in Dublin.
“Many fighters are not in a great situation. I am blessed with the situation I am in. I have worked very hard for this. I have come in and put in the work to be in the situation I am in, but it’s not nice to see my peers...some of my peers, not all of them, because some of them do deserve to be in that because they are not at that level, but I feel it is important to bunch together and support each other,” McGregor told media at his gym in Las Vegas last week. “It’s a dangerous, crazy business we are in. We get in and risk everything. I have witnessed firsthand how these fighters risk it all.”
Taking the lead of a fighters’ union is not something McGregor is willing to do just yet, as all of his focus is on his own career, and more immediately, avenging his loss to Diaz. Down the road, he might be more willing to take on a more prominent role.
“Maybe in the future. Right now, I’ve got to focus on myself,” he said. “That might be selfish, but this is the position I am in right now. I have a lot going on. I’ve got to focus on my own self. But in the future maybe I will help spearhead something like that if it is presented correctly. I won’t just jump in if it wasn’t going to be done right.”