Project Spearhead Founder Leslie Smith Planning Legal Action Against UFC for Contract Buyout

By Tristen Critchfield Apr 24, 2018


Leslie Smith is planning to take legal action against the UFC after she believes the promotion bought out her contract in retaliation for her leading an effort to unionize fighters.

Smith, a seven-time Octagon veteran, was scheduled to face Aspen Ladd at UFC Fight Night 128 in Atlantic City, N.J., this past weekend. The contest was canceled when Ladd missed weight for the 135-pound contest by 1.8 pounds. As a result, the UFC paid Smith $62,000 for the final fight on her contract and informed her that they would not be giving her a new deal.

Smith claims that decision is directly related to her role as founder of Project Spearhead, an organization with the goal of unionizing fighters under the UFC banner. In order to help with her legal fees, Smith has started a GoFundMe page.

“I attempted to extend my contract with the UFC after my opponent missed weight. However, the UFC, in perceived retaliation against my legally protected right to unionize, declined to extend my contract,” Smith wrote. “In addition, the UFC advised me it would pay me, in an unprecedented fashion, my show and win money without fighting so that the remaining fight on my contract would be considered fulfilled. I was removed from the UFC posted rankings less than 48 hours later.”

Smith had won three of her last four appearances, including a second-round stoppage of Amanda Lemos in her most recent outing at UFC Fight Night 113. One bout prior, she garnered “Fight of the Night” honors for a decision victory over Irene Aldana at UFC on Fox 22. Meanwhile, her lone defeat came when she agreed to face Cristiane Justino – a fighter who often struggles to find opponents -- in a catchweight bout at UFC 198. In short, Smith believes her recent performance dictates that she would normally be re-signed by the Las Vegas-based organization were it not for her involvement with Project Spearhead.

“I have been one of few UFC fighters to publicly speak in favor of a fighter's union. I also recently launched Project Spearhead, an organization that is currently collecting authorization cards from UFC fighters to file with the National Labor Relations Board. I was the ninth ranked UFC women's bantamweight in the world and had won three of my last four fights, but the UFC's actions resulted in me being removed as a fighter in the UFC,” Smith wrote.

“It is my opinion that I was removed from the UFC in direct retaliation for exercising my rights to organize a union. The UFC has now forced me to enforce these rights through legal channels, and I need help funding the legal fees necessary to continue my fight for the right to unionize free from coercion. I want equitable treatment for all UFC fighters.”

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