Friday, May 27, 2022

Julianna Peña Explains Why There Isn’t A Fighter Union

UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Julianna Peña has explained why a union hasn’t been formed to help combat perceived issues with fighter pay.

The topic of fighter remuneration has existed for a long time and has been at the forefront of discussions in recent years. Whether due to Francis Ngannou’s dispute with the UFC before and after his UFC 270 unification fight with Ciryl Gane or through the posts and words of YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul, most are aware and have an opinion on the debate.

One thing that’s often been brought up as a potential way to solve contractual shortcomings is a fighter union. While the likes of former UFC fighter Kevin Lee believe the formation of a union is “inevitable,” others, including Bellator analyst Josh Thomson, don’t think there will ever be one in MMA.

Seemingly falling on the latter, less optimistic side of that argument is Peña. During an appearance on The Pivot Podcast, “The Venezuelan Vixen” suggested a union is unlikely, owing to the fact there will always be fighters willing to compete for the same money and under the same conditions should others refuse.

“It’s a big thing (financial struggles). It’s a big trouble that fighters are having and have been trying to fix for years, with getting unions done,” said Peña. “It’s hard, because it’s like, we want a union, and then it’s like, ‘Well, I’ll just pay this guy 5/5 and he’s gonna show up, and he’s gonna do it, and I’m gonna put some shorts on him and he’s gonna jump at the opportunity to go fight.’

“So, it’s like you’re disposable. They love you, but you’re only as good as your last fight and if they don’t like you, you’re gone and have to find something else to do,” concluded Peña.

Despite Julianna Peña’s skepticism, it does seem the demand and conversation have perhaps led the sport as close to a union as it ever has been. It’s arguable that push is down to one man.

Jake Paul Has Been Leading The Union Charge

As well as venturing into the ring for his own career in professional boxing, which has seen him go 5-0 and knock out former MMA champions Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren, Jake Paul has been a prominent voice when it comes to fighter pay.

Beyond social media posts and criticism of promotions like the UFC, Paul has even offered to retire from boxing and enter the Octagon in exchange for fighter health care and improved checks.

He’s also somewhat put his money where his mouth is, providing hefty paydays for Askren and Woodley. Also, through his promotion of Amanda Serrano, he’s brought a new level of attention and wealth into the female side of pugilism.

While some continue to dismiss the idea of a fighter union, “The Problem Child” has repeatedly labeled it as the “end game” when it comes to improving contractual agreements.

“I want to create a fighters’ union,” said Paul during an appearance on ESPN’s The First Take. “This is my goal to really impact the whole entire sport, both MMA and boxing, and leave an everlasting stamp. I just so happen to not be beholden to anybody. A lot of these UFC fighters they are beholden to Dana White. They can’t speak out against him, so I’m using my platform because I’m one of a very few people who actually can.”

While that apparent goal is thought my many, including Julianna Peña, to be an impossible task, it seems unlikely Paul will cease his pursuit of improved pay in MMA, whether for genuine or for self-promotional reasons.

Do you think a fighter union is needed to combat complaints over contracts?

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