The lockout. It cost the NHL the 2004-05 season. Major League Baseball took almost a decade to recover a strong fan base after no World Series in 1994 because of a players’ strike.
It’s always about the money. Even athletes who make more in a season than most average folks will make in a lifetime, “more” is their mantra. Even for owners who have already made more than most average folks will make in two or three lifetimes, “more” (or less for the players) is their stand.
Unions are a necessity, the very backbone of building this country. There was a time when workers had no choices and very little pay, with dangerous working conditions. Until those hard working coal miners, steel workers, car builders, etc., took a unified gathering of will and purpose to enhance a quality of life for their families, they were owned by their companies. They were the truly oppressed and had no choice.
As with everything in society today common sense is rapidly leaving the room. Unions are still needed but sometimes the reason for them is lost. It’s been about fair wages and work conditions not gluttony, not more than is reasonable to keep a company going, and to keep a job.
This is where most of the sports unions turn a blind eye. It is hard to garner support from the man spending hundreds of dollars each time he brings his family to an event, sacrificing a vacation down the road or putting off a home repair just to provide a night of entertainment.
With all the Collective Bargaining Agreement talk, we’ve received many inquiries in the last month on Inside MMA about a future fighters union, the possibility that someday the MMA world, specifically the UFC would be faced with the threat of a strike, or just padlock the Octagon for several months if needed.
There will never be a lockout in MMA. There might someday be a union. The TV money now coming in adding to the growing popularity, which could lead to endorsement deals of a larger scope than present for its stars may bring fighters to some kind of mandate.
But the beauty of MMA, the reason working class Americans have gravitated toward it in sizeable numbers, is there are no guarantees. If a guy doesn’t fight he doesn’t get paid. He can’t fall back on the wealth he’s accumulated in recent years to give up a year of his prime so he can get more. This is what all of us can relate to, no work no pay. It’s purity and common sense.
Even as the sport grows there will grumbles the athletes should be paid more, and they will likely get it. Just as the UFC made a wise, preemptive strike this year by adding a more comprehensive insurance coverage to its athletes. A paycheck, insurance, these are the basics any worker needs and should have.
However what will always prevent a lockout in MMA is the individualism inherent to the sport. There will be half dozen fighters that get seven figure deals and endorsements beyond the usual apparel and energy drinks. They won’t sacrifice this for the 2-1 up-and-comer who needs to win the next fight to stay with the organization.
If there is doubt look no further than jockeys. The have a guild that has over the years increased catastrophic insurance coverage for all, taken care of those injured and can’t support their families. But the gulf between the elite riders and those who are making a living or struggling is huge, much like MMA. The multi millionaires might have concern but they aren’t going to sacrifice a thriving career for a few months or longer to make a stand for everyone else. It’s about the individual who has the skills few do, and while they are all in the same profession the peer group is relatively small.
Sports unions succeed because the vast majority of their group is already rich. Even, particularly in the NBA, the minimum salaried players are still years ahead of the working class. Plus, a team is needed to make these sports happen. Not so in MMA, a great fighter stands alone. This doesn’t imply there is no compassion for the rest, but in the short shelf life that is any pro athlete there is an understanding to make it while you can. If you can get a half million a fight, can you take the time off for the guy getting ten grand or less?
Lockout? In other sports yes, it will always happen. In MMA? The individual prevails, they might make some concessions for even more insurance coverage for all, maybe a slice more of the pay-per-view pie to be split, but they won’t jeopardize what they have in front of them. It isn’t so much selfish as it is common sense. Somewhere in the middle all sports unions can learn that the work or don’t make money guys will always appeal to fans.
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