Dear Roxy: ‘Do you think unionization will ever happen?’

Roxanne Modafferi returns for another edition of Dear Roxy, the advice column where the ‘Happy Warrior’ goes toe-to-toe-with questions about fighting, training, and life…

By: Roxanne Modafferi | 10 months ago
Dear Roxy: ‘Do you think unionization will ever happen?’
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Roxanne Modafferi returns for another edition of Dear Roxy, the advice column where the ‘Happy Warrior’ goes toe-to-toe-with questions about fighting, training, and life in general.

In our last edition, we focused on open scoring in MMA. We also looked at weight cutting practices in different organizations around the world. And even gave some consideration to the potential for a future women’s lightweight division in the UFC.

This week, we’re looking at the value of win streaks vs. getting big name wins. We’re also giving some thought to the potential for a UFC fighter’s union and whether or not it has a realistic future. And we’ve got questions about a potential women’s openweight division, the value of control and takedowns for MMA judging, and balancing sparring sessions between full-contact preparation and health & longevity.

Dear Roxy

“As a fighter, where do you stand on win streaks vs name wins? All too often these days someone has ground their way up the division on an active and impressive streak and then 2 top 5ers both on losses pair up and for some reason the narrative shifts to the winner of that getting next…” — 2ndTry

Dear 2nd Try,

Promoters and match-makers care about the money value, not what’s fair in the sports world. I believe they prioritize entertainment, and it’s often not what we consider “fair.” Remember, MMA is more than half entertainment, and only partially sports. It makes sense from the business standpoint to give fight opportunities that make the company the most money, so I understand that’s probably why they do it. Fighters grind their way into the top ten, then get to hang out there longer because they are more recognized and have more name value.

Andrade has found big success hopping between divisions and getting fights in the top 5.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

I’m a fighter, so I’m personally against a big name getting the title shot repeatedly. Also it’s annoying to fighters when someone coming in from another weight division quickly gets the title shot in the new division. That happened with Jessica Andrade from strawweight to flyweight. Also, Valentina entering flyweight as a top bantamweight. As a fighter in flyweight, I was pretty indignant. Let people who’ve been fighting their way up the ladder in flyweight have a chance.

Dear Roxy,

“Realistically, do you think unionization will ever happen?” — Yoel Simpson

Dear Yoel,

No, I don’t.

Not unless the top ten of all divisions threaten not to fight, or there’s some financial advantage for the fight promotion. Promotions like the UFC are under no obligation to keep fighters. They can just release anyone they want, and someone will jump up excitedly to take their place. Also, fighters are hired as independent contractors, not employees. Something would have to change in the system in order for unionization to take place.

Dear Roxy,

“As someone who often grappled your way to decision victories, can you make a case for why takedowns and control time are weighted heavily in scoring?” — LyricBaritone

Dear Lyric,

It took a lot of work to keep this fight here and get the win.
Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

Yes, especially because I’m a grappler, I’m disappointed that the Unified Rules are biased towards strikers. My case is this: takedowns and control time should be weighed more heavily than they are now. It should return to how it used to be scored. Control on the ground is dominance. The other person is being held against their will and doesn’t have the ability to get up. The top person is using skill and strength, which they’ve worked hard to develop, to keep them there and try to set up a finish.

Two fighters can kickbox the whole fight and not be tired. Two fighters can wrestle for one round and be exhausted. Also, one often has to maneuver into a certain position to get a submission, or pin them to ground and pound TKO them. Maybe the fighter almost got into that position when the bottom fighter escapes. That means the effort of the top fighter is wasted, and that’s not fair.

Dear Roxy,

“What is the right mix of sparring levels? I think a lot of fighters still spar inappropriately hard and too often and wind up leaving a lot of their career longevity in the gym. I do think sparring is necessary to get used to fighting, so no sparring ever is probably not the right answer either. Curious to hear your take.” — Huck77

Dear Huck,

This is a topic dear to my heart. I suffered through my twenties with daily pain and agony from under-recovering and over-training. When I reached my mid thirties, I wanted to drill techniques and land them while my partner was resisting. However, I didn’t want to dominate my training partners, beat them up, or hurt them.

Some people do want to beat others up in training. They might be younger athletes who haven’t had concussions in training, or have anger issues, or whatnot. When I was nearing the end of my career and was having headaches after training, my coach John Wood said, “Well, you don’t have to spar. Lots of older fighters just drill and then fight.” But I didn’t want to give up sparring! I needed people to resist my techniques so I could try out my moves. However, I didn’t want do Mortal Kombat in the gym every day.

I think MMA fighters need to treat this more like a sport. You go to practice to build strength and muscle memory. However, fighting is an emotional, primal thing. Most people get excited if they get hit, hit someone, etc. Everyone has a fire inside of them to fight. It takes work to control that fire.

I think trainers and coaches should figure out how to do things like situational sparring where people can go hard but not try to knock each other out in the gym.

Dear Roxy,

“Hi Roxy! There was a question on your last article RE: women’s 155lb division, and it reminded me of Brian Campbell’s idea of a women’s Open Weight division. What would you think of a division in women’s MMA with functionally no weight limit? Set it at 145lbs and up, allowing matches without having to deal with making a weight division for one or two fighters.” — APgabadoo

Dear APgabadoo,

Never again.
Set Number: X45313

I have participated in two open-weight tournaments earlier on in my career. They are really hard! I think they are better off left in the past, or on the amateur level. I think as fighters mature and improve in skill, the weight and strength becomes more and more of a big deal. When you have fighters who are very similar in skill, their size and strength can be the tipping factor. That doesn’t mean the bigger or stronger fighter will always win, and of course, but it’s more likely nowadays.

That being said, I’d do open-weight in jiujitsu just to see if I could pull it off. I’m usually the weakest in a group.

If you’d like to submit your own questions for ‘Dear Roxy’ feel free to email me at, with the subject line “Dear Roxy”, or reach out on twitter @RoxyFighter with the hashtag #DearRoxy. Or simply leave your questions in a comment below on Bloody Elbow. Look forward to hearing from you all soon.

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About the author
Roxanne Modafferi
Roxanne Modafferi

Roxanne Modafferi is a former UFC fighter with 19 years of MMA experience. She’s fought for titles in the UFC, Strikeforce, and Invicta. A jiujitsu blackbelt, she teaches jiujitsu at the gym, and English in the classroom. Roxanne has self-published three books in addition to contributing articles for this site. In her free time, she watches anime and plays video games (Twisted Metal, Skyrim, etc).

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