THE SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: Biggest news of the last week in MMA – Conor targets WWE, steps being taken to form MMA fighters union

By D.R Webster, MMATorch contributor

Conor McGregor (Photo credit Mark J. Rebilas © USA Today)

In the debut edition of the Sunday Supplement, I will be looking at the biggest news of the week in MMA including Conor McGregor and his well-publicized comments on WWE as well as a new fighters association on the rise which could perhaps change the MMA landscape in the future.

Conor McGregor Targets WWE

This week’s inescapable news story came courtesy of UFC’s resident headline maker, Conor McGregor. McGregor once again had everybody talking when he targeted WWE and its talent, calling them “pussies” among many other insults in an interview early this week.

He would also go on to double down on his comments later on this week during a UFC 202 Q&A session as well as singling out WWE’s top face, John Cena, whom he branded both “fat” and “a failed Mr. Olympia.” 

All of these comments have drummed up a lot of buzz online and beyond, of course. It prompted several current and former WWE wrestlers including Ric Flair, Roman Reigns, Kurt Angle, Sasha Banks, and Chris Jericho to reply to McGregor’s comments on social media, with Flair and Angle in particular grabbing headlines with their angered replies.

McGregor stated in his original comments earlier in the week that he had thought about WWE (as an option) before. However, he went on to make the disparaging comments about their talent, apparently dismissing the possibility.

This recent outburst to many seems to signal the exact opposite. If we first take into account McGregor’s love of money and the payday he could make from WWE for a WrestleMania appearance or match a la Floyd Mayweather Jr., then of course he would consider them.

Money aside, if we cast our minds back to last month to UFC 200, with Brock Lesnar being allowed to fight on the card while under contract to WWE, the talk was that the UFC owed WWE a big favor at some point, which could potentially come in the form of allowing one of their contracted fighters (such as Conor McGregor) to appear on WWE programming. They already let Ronda Rousey appear at WrestleMania 31 in 2015, and that deal was made without the bonus of UFC owing WWE something.

It seems like an obvious game that McGregor is playing, a game taken straight from pro wrestling’s handbook, insulting all of the top stars in WWE keep his options open for the future and, more importantly, keeps the casual fan’s mind open for possible confrontations down the road.

Then you have the rebuttals to McGregor on social media from several contracted WWE talent, which makes it look even more like something is being set up for sometime in the future.

Even the wording of McGregor’s tweet on the subject could be read into. “I didn’t mean no disrespect to the (WWE) fans,” he wrote. “What I meant to say was that I’d slap the head off your entire roster. And twice on Sundays.” It comes across like a challenge to the entire roster and twice on Sundays could be a nod and a wink to appearing on a future PPV, which of course take place on Sundays.

The best thing of all about McGregor’s comments is that not only is he getting major press and building hype around himself even more ahead of his big rematch at UFC 202, he is also giving WWE free press along the way.

Rebuttals from top wrestling names such as Roman Reigns, Ric Flair, and Sasha Banks are giving McGregor and the UFC a lot of promotion for UFC 202 within the wrestling community with more than 14 million combined followers between everyone who commented on him. It’s a win-win p.r. move for everyone involved. It gets people talking about McGregor, WWE, and UFC.

I believe that this is the start of something which will culminate at WrestleMania 33. All signs point to something big and cross-promotional. The rumors were already at fever pitch at this year’s WrestleMania event about McGregor appearing, especially after he followed WWE talent on social media right before the event. Plus, the timing seems right for something to occur next April at the WWE flagship event.

Money talks with McGregor, so it remains to be seen if Vince McMahon and WWE can persuade him to make the crossover, but if Mayweather could be bought, then so can McGregor.

New Fighters Association Formed

The Professional Fighters Association (PFA), a new association attempting to bring about a fighters union, was announced by press release on Thursday and has been established by a collection of several influential and important names from the sports world.

This comes on the heels of Mark Hunt’s comments about wanting a fighters union in MMA. He has raised issues with the UFC due to the Brock Lesnar USADA test failure. Also, multiple other fighters publicly have spoken out after the sale of UFC for $4 billion last month, demanding fair pay, which is estimated to be 25-30 percent lower than than the average of what athletes earn in other major sports.

There have already been attempts to start a fighters union. Most well-known is the MMA Fighters Association (MMAFA), started by Rob Maysey, an Arizona lawyer several years ago and supported by the likes of former UFC fighters, Randy Couture and Cung Le. Also New York-based law firm, Lichten & Bright, has also attempted to bring UFC fighters together in an effort to form an association or union.

Nothing major has been changed so far with these efforts. However, the PFA have people on board who may just have the right amount of power and influence in the right places to make a difference this time for fighters in the UFC.

The association is being led by longtime baseball agent Jeff Borris, who has represented the likes of Barry Bonds & Jose Canseco, labor attorney Lucas Middlebrook, lawyer of Nick Diaz, counsel for MLS & NBA Referee’s Union, and highly regarded economist Andrew Zimbalist.

The PFA laid out their plans for the organization in the press release, making sure to highlight that it won’t just be a union of fighters, but that the organization will be governed solely by fighters, who will control their own futures, not the companies that they work for.

This seems like a great way to go for this organization. They have the power, influence, and experience of the sports people involved. By having the fighters govern themselves, the organization will have first-hand experience on how to handle situations as they will have fighters who have already been there and done that.

The PFA is hoping to get recognition of a fighters union through the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and will need to challenge the status of fighters as independent contractors and have fighters legally looked upon by government as employees to form and in order to have proper unionization to come into effect.

The PFA press release stated that they have received the support of the MLBPA, NFLPA, NHLPA, NBAPA, and MLSPU and included quotes of support from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, MLSPU executive director Bob Foose, NHLPA executive director and former MLBPA executive director Donald Fehr, and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, with MLBPA being regarded as one of the most powerful unions in the sport.

Of course, for a fighters union to work, high-profile fighters need to be at the forefront spearheading the movement of change. Some feel like this may be a sticking point as the fighters making big money may not be open to the idea of unionization.

However, this week, one of the biggest names in the sport and the man currently in the headlines as mentioned in the story above, Conor McGregor, backed the idea of a fighters union.

However, while McGregor backed the idea, he made it clear that he is focused on himself at the moment and would only be open to the idea in the future.

For something like this to work, the association really needs top fighters to support them, fighters who are at the top of the UFC and in their prime to have the best chance of changing the business. Without these top level fighters, it will be a hard task to challenge the might of the UFC, especially after the $4 billion sale of the company and the injection of high level businessmen from the new WME-IMG ownership into the company now.

It remains to be seen whether the PFA can make a difference to UFC fighters and MMA in general. It will be a long, drawn out process and, as always, the fighters are the key. They may have influential sports people behind them, but without the backing of top fighters, the changes fighters ultimate want will not come.

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