Mark Hunt is really really upset. Just a couple of days ago, he went onto the MMA Hour to unleash on Brock Lesnar and UFC 200. The rant was long, but can be encapsulated in these block quotes:
“I’ll go and work somewhere else. Like I said, I don’t give a sh*t. If we’ve got to sue their asses, well then f*ck you, you’re going to get sued. You scummy c*nts. The problem is everyone these days, ‘Man, I want to get into the UFC.’ F*ck the UFC. You’re sh*t. You motherf*ckers don’t look after nobody.”
“We’ll let this f*cking white piece of sh*t f*cking stick needles in his ass and say, ‘Oh, he’s going to take us all the way to the f*cking bank.’ Let’s give him f*cking millions of dollars and not worry about this motherf*cker. You know what? F*ck that and f*ck your sh*t company. Look at that for a contract. You can sue me on that, motherf*ckers.”
Holy f*cking sh*it! How many f*ck can you f*cking fit in a motherf*cking rant? Godd*mn! This sh*t is f*cking nuts bruh!
Profanity aside (grow the f*ck up Puritans), Mark Hunt
maybe probably definitely has every right to be upset. Now, Hunt that Brock Lesnar, who basically sat on him for three rounds, got popped for a PED by USADA on the eve of UFC 200. This was made public after he earned $2.5 million on an otherwise (and unsurprisingly) mundane fight featured on a card plagued by the absence of their biggest superstars (re: Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and Jon Jones). Brock has denied knowingly taken substances, promising to “get to the bottom of this.”
Who really knows if Brock took PEDs accidentally or intentionally. However, the undue focus on Mark Hunt’s profanity and Brock Lesnar’s steroids has ignored a larger recurring problem that has plagued the UFC since the beginning: fighter agency. For comparison, if you play in the major North American sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL), chances are, you’re represented by a players union. Players unions have been responsible for making sure that athletes (the labor) aren’t being exploited by the team owners (the employers). They’ve been responsible for helping establish free agency, better work conditions (i.e, the elimination of two-a-days in the NFL), and increased wage scale to name a few.
The typical argument against UFC unions is the fact that boxers do not have fighter representation. Here’s my counter(argument): the UFC is a sports LEAGUE akin to the NFL, NBA, and MLB. There is no “league” of boxing, but rather a series of promotions that propagate their own championships in a mad scramble for legitimacy and pay-per-view buys. A champion boxer for the WBO can simultaneously hold a WBA or IBF belt as well. They have contractual obligations, but these promotions hardly qualify as a league in the sense of exclusive employment of any particular athlete. A UFC fighter cannot fight in Bellator or anywhere else for that matter for any reason while under contract. Because names such as Anderson Silva, GSP, Jon Jones, and Ronda Rousey, are as synonymous with UFC as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and LeBron James are with the NBA. Furthermore, these athletes are responsible for their respective league’s growth from million dollar-a-year games to multi-billion dollar mega franchises with no signs of stagnating. Fighters who sacrifice their health and well-being, not just for their own glory, but to make their promotion more money than it has even seen. As such, they have earned the right to eat a bigger piece of the pie.
Last year, UFC imposed its own uniform sponsor in Reebok, like the other sports leagues, who have their own apparel sponsors. As such, UFC fighters who had sponsorships with other apparel companies lost money from not being able to promote their products in the Octagon. This is when the talks of fighter unionization went from murmurs to actual conversations.
Unsurprisingly, the UFC recommended their employees not unionize for their own sake. Their overly facile reasoning was that unions would be in control in negotiating salaries instead of the individuals themselves. This is the usual BS arguments employers (the bourgeoisie) of all companies utilize to prevent their employee’s agency. Why? Because they realize that collective bargaining would actually lead to higher individual salaries. All of the sudden, Brock Lesnar would go from earning $2.5 in UFC 200 to $10 million. Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey would make tens of millions in bonuses as opposed to just a few hundred thousand (the paupers!). And don’t forget, retirement pensions become fatter and the UFC’s loses some command over what their fighters can and cannot do.
The potential fighters union could flex their muscle and strike if their demands aren’t met. If the owners are unwilling to raise the wage scale. Conversely, the owners could just threaten a lockout if they feel their employees are unreasonable. But a lockout would still hurt the league the same way a strike would. It’s seppuku, especially as fighters.
The reality is that, with or without unions, bosses exploit their laborers. The exploitation can be as crass as what we’ve seen in sweatshops or slavery. The difference is that unions offer some membrane, no matter how thin or thick, that protects their workers from being (to paraphrase Hunt) completely f*cked. Corporations are only look after their own interests. Their only responsibility is to their shareholders. That’s it. Their employees can kick rocks unless they can use the rule of law to protect themselves and earn what is rightfully owed.
So what does all of this labor theory and critique of capitalism have to do with Mark Hunt? With Hunt, it’s a recognition that the UFC uses and exploits its talent to fatten the pocketbooks of WME, the Fertitta brothers, and Dana White. It’s a realization that the UFC will plunder from your potential purse earnings while placing you in even more unreasonably dangerous situations (i.e., fighters who dope) that’s extreme for even mixed-martial arts. It’s the understanding that the fighters are at the mercy of their promotion despite their so-called independent contractor status.
Hunt is mad, not just because of Brock Lesnar’s steroids, but because of UFC’s almost authoritarian power over their fighters. And we all should be mad, too.