The MMA industry redefining press conference is in the books, and it's official: An MMA Athlete's Association has been announced.
The "team" took a moment to speak. These are their condensed comments, with the full conference call recording to come.
Tim Kennedy: We're going to change the face of an entire industry and sport today. I've seen MMA grow from a niche sport to one of the largest and successful sports in the world. I come from an era in the WEC, I would run to the bank to deposit the check so it wouldn't bounce. We just broke every record Madison Square Garden ever had. The level of profit is generated by the fighters.
We're responsible of the hundreds of millions of sponsorships worldwide, we would've gotten a fair share. When things go bad, when we get hurt, when we retire, that there would be something there. A safety net that's not there.
No man left behind.
We're here so that no fighter gets left behind. The vast majority of UFC fighters are disregarded after their battles. No savings, no insurance, no safety net of any kind.
To fight and win, you need a great team. That's what we have here. We are surrounded by champions and some of the most recognizable faces in MMA. With us today is a legal team and a great organizational team that knows the sport and is second to none. These people were hand picked and chosen.
We are announcing the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association.
GSP: We want to make the situation better for everybody. I've been traveling from Canada for my training, and everywhere I have trained, there is a comradery with your training partner. It's personal, and you learn more about their situation. I'm here today to talk about these problems and make these situations better. In the UFC, maybe I will be seen as a villain like when I came out about the drug problem, but that situation has been rectified. I want everyone to be happy on both sides.
I'm one of the rare fighters that are wealthy. I can't say that about most of the guys. I didn't fight recently because the situation wasn't fair for me. In most sports, it's 50/50 for the promoter and athlete. We have maybe 8%. I worked very hard for this position. My first fight in the UFC was $3,000/$3,000.
We are here to fight for the fighters who have been bullied or intimidated, left broken without insurance and without care. Fighters who I met in the beginning of their career and left not the same at the end of their career. I'm not talking about trauma. This has to change.
Cowboy: The financial and healthcare side of it is what concerns me. Pensions, surgeries, people getting hurt. There are so many things I want answers to. I don't know what the f*ck I'm getting myself into.
Dillashaw: I want to stand up for what is right. This sport is full of the highest highs and lowest lows, and people have been cut with nothing to show for it. Beat up, just not brain trauma. Just being banged up. I'm with Cowboy, not having to struggle and help my family. I have to pay for insurance and you don't get hurt in fights, you get hurt in training. I'm out there putting my life on the line. It would be nice to reap some rewards. To only get 8% of what the UFC is getting is crazy to me. I'm standing up for what is right for the past fighters, the future fighters and the fighters to come.
Cain Velasquez: My first fight in the UFC as 2008. Since then I've had seven surgeries. I have a fight December 30th. After that fight, I'm scheduled for my next surgery. For us, and the future, there is no post-retirement health plan. That's why it's important for fighters to come together to make our life better now and in the future.
Bjorn: The truth here is crystal clear and the numbers are out there and evidenced by the wrongs. The outrageous conduct is the WME/IMG is gathering courageous, elite athletes without providing a safety net of any kind. MMA is an incredibly dangerous sport. The short and long-term consequences is frightening. I think MMA is the greatest sport on earth.
But when the group that controls the sport makes hundreds of millions of dollars, producing higher margins of profit than any sports industry and the athletes that drive those margins and WME/IMG ask them to risk their lives.
It's outrageous and unfair. That's what we're going to change.
To be clear, this seems not to be a union. Bjorn Rebney explained: "It's an option under the law to file grievances with their employers. UFC fighters are independent contractors. We are NOT forming a union. We are an association and that's how we're moving forward."