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So what does Mark Hunt spouting off about a fighter’s association have to do with the UFC/USADA deal? A whole lot more than you might think.
I know everyone has heard the “Super Samoan” rip into the UFC and Brock Lesnar after he was made aware of Lesnar’s positive tests -- both his pre- and post-fight samples contained banned substances -- and his demands for a substantial portion of his opponent’s purse and it is easy to see why, now, after all this has happened to him, to make the case for a fighter’s association. The fact of the matter is there was an equally good reason for fighters like Lesnar and Jon Jones or even Chad Mendes, all recently nabbed in the wide-ranging USADA drift net.
Let’s face it folks, UFC fighters are more akin to employees than ever. Reebok uniforms, expanding press obligations and especially the USADA deal. Now I don’t want anyone to think I am not happy with how this program has unfolded to date, it is doing what it was designed to do: catch cheaters. The thing I do take issue with is the fact that those who are covered by the policy had virtually zero input in how it was designed or how it is adjudicated.
It is no one’s fault but the fighters themselves. They have been a fractured group for as long as they’ve been competing, but in today’s world of big money and even bigger stakes they have found themselves unorganized and primed to be taken advantage of at every turn, as MMA and the UFC in particular, have grown into a major player in the sports world.
“Reebok deal done, no more sponsorship money for you guys. Take what you get from our deal, you’ll love it,” say the corporate masters.
“If you don’t show up for a press conference halfway around the world we’ll just replace you on one of the biggest cards we’ve ever put on,” booms the voice from the executive suite.
“Sign your rights away, as you’ve always done in the past, because we’re implementing a new drug testing policy and you really don’t need to be involved in deciding how it is drawn up, executed or how you might want to appeal anything,” declares the group that just sold the place for $4 billion.
I know, I’ve written about how foolish and shortsighted fighters have been -- in my opinion anyway -- for quite some time. Some people get tired of it, but this is just another example, on both sides of the issue, as to why fighters need to have collective representation. Mark Hunt is pissed off he was sent off to the cage to fight an allegedly roided up fighter while Jones and Lesnar probably would like to have had some say in how the test protocols, appeals process and perhaps punishment guidelines were set up now that they both look like they’ll be hanging their hat on a tainted supplement defense.
Honestly, I don’t blame the UFC for any of this. They run an efficient ship and are probably ecstatic they don’t have to deal with a fighter’s association. Nope, this one is entirely on the fighters who have given in at every turn and acquiesced to the UFC each and every time they’ve been asked/forced to.
Hunt is right though, it is time these men and women to risk life and limb to entertain us … err … I mean risk life and limb in hopes of making millions of dollars and setting themselves and their families up for the long-haul to realize that they have the ability to foster a change for the better. Maybe not overnight, but by being vigilant about protecting themselves and those who come after them at each and every turn.
I’d imagine if you asked Hunt now what he would think about having a platform that would have allowed him or his representatives to ask the UFC about how a loss to a fighter who tests positive afterwards might affect him and his wallet he’d probably agree that it would be a smart thing to do.
I’m sure Jones and Lesnar or even Mendes who remarked that he didn’t do his homework -- whether their tainted supplement defenses are to be believed or not -- after their positive tests if they might have liked to have had a voice when USADA was finalizing how they would adjudicate disputes and I would hazard a guess that they would have preferred to have had a representative working on their behalves.
In the end, it is not the program itself that I have a problem with. Hell, I really don’t give a sh*t if these guys don’t want to stand up for their own rights. I’m just saying that an informed group that doesn’t do what is in their best interests aren’t really deserving of our sympathy.
Hunt is right, these guys should get their asses in gear and protect themselves, but good luck getting everyone else onboard.
Sherdog.com Executive Editor Greg Savage can be reached by email or via Twitter @TheSavageTruth.