The fact that the UFC allowed its fighters — and anyone associated with them — to bet on fights was mind-boggling. At a minimum, the optics were terrible. In a worst-case scenario, the UFC’s hands-off approach opened the door to bettors having inside information on fighters.
When the UFC closed that door in mid-October via a memo from UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell, I supported the step the UFC had taken.
However, just because the UFC did the right thing by finally prohibiting athletes from betting on UFC fights doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to the fact that the UFC made this move without the input or approval of the fighters. After all, the fighters are the ones most affected by the policy change.
This new policy falls under the recently dusted-off UFC Athlete Conduct Policy (when’s the last time we heard that mentioned?). This is just another in a long list of changes, requirements and restrictions that the UFC has set for fighters without them having a say, or being categorized as employees.
The list of changes the UFC mandated includes the ability to represent sponsors inside the octagon. The mandating of fight kits. A tenure-based system for fighter outfitting pay. The adoption of the USADA drug testing program and its whereabouts provision. Of course, the often ignored UFC Code of Conduct itself falls into this category, as would the requirement of the fighters to appear for media obligations to promote UFC events.
If the UFC fighters were employees, these mandated items would be understandable as a condition of employment. However, UFC fighters are independent contractors and, as such, should be exempt from many things that the UFC forces on them. Unfortunately, the UFC has been allowed to run roughshod over the fighters because of it’s leverage and dominance in the market as the biggest MMA promoter in the world.
While it’s probably the proper rule to make in a vacuum, telling fighters they can no longer bet on fights is also just one of the many examples of the UFC overstepping its bounds. This is also why a group of their “independent contractors” are currently taking the fight to court, pushing back and arguing that the UFC has long abused its power.
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