It’s no secret now, but a couple weeks back Georges St-Pierre was a lot less definite as to whether or not he’d be joining the charge to bring collective bargaining to MMA. Early in November he spoke at the Gentlemen’s Expo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, about his future in the sport. He gave an impassioned argument for the need for a fighter’s union or association, but was unclear as to whether or not he’d be involved.
In the weeks since then, that position has become a lot more firm, culminating in a November 30th press conference. There a group of fighters consisting of GSP, Donald Cerrone, Tim Kennedy, Cain Velasquez, and T.J. Dillashaw – and advised by former Bellator CEO, Bjorn Rebney – announced the formation of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association. They took questions, spelled out their intentions, and mostly just made themselves known to the public.
So, why is a wealthy and mostly-retired star like GSP jumping into the fray? What does he have to gain? Here’s how he explained himself and his thoughts back in early November:
“What I’m doing right now is I’m trying to also change the game,” St-Pierre told the assembled crowd. “People that are familiar with hockey, baseball… Back in the day, when you have guys in the 70s, 80s… Their contract was… They didn’t have their fair share. And I think a lot of the fighters, unfortunately, they don’t have the power and the position that I have. A lot of them are pissed off, because they have no choice. They cannot take a year off, they have to put money on the table for their family. And on top of that, again, a lot of these guys that are fighting end up with [points to head] severe damage, like brain damage. They’re not the same person in the beginning of their career than at the end.
Georges St-Pierre live at #TGE2016
Posted by The Gentlemen’s Expo on Friday, November 11, 2016
“I’m very fortunate,” he continued. “I think I’m the same guy, I don’t think I’m too much damaged in here. Hopefully not. But, I’m very healthy – which is the most important thing – and I’m wealthy. So, I can fight that battle for them.
“And until pretty recently, because I was focusing on Toronto… When I focus on one thing, it’s like a funnel for me. I don’t see nothing else. I eat this, sleep on it, I train on it, I drive on it. Everything I do is for that. And just today, a lot of things were brought up to my ear. My agent called to me… I know there’s a few organizations that want to start a association. Also, there’s other options, fighting somewhere else. So, I could fight again for UFC, I could fight for another organization, or I could never fight again, but be part of an association. There’s plenty of options that I didn’t consider yet, because I was focusing on one thing.”
But that was only the beginning. GSP went on to give a view from his own career working with the UFC and what he’s seen and heard from other fighters. It seems he has a lot of very definite opinions on the position that fighters are at in today’s sporting landscape.
“What is happening now, it’s not ‘if’ it would happen,” GSP said, when pressed on whether or not he would lead the charge for collective bargaining in MMA. “It will happen, sooner or later. It’s like any other sport, it will happen. Guys like me, Conor, guys that are a big draw, they can fight that battle. The guys that have no choice, or the guys that, for example, they’re on two straight losses and they’re waiting for their next fight, and they’re on contract with the UFC, they’re waiting maybe a year. And then, after a year, they’re receiving a phone call, like, ‘Oh, finally, we don’t need you, you’re out of UFC.’ This should not happen. Because these poor guys, they need money, they need that.
“I’m just giving you one example of things that are very frustrating for a fighter, because I’ve been on the other side,” he continued. “Now, I’m doing very well for myself. I have a lot of money and I don’t complain, I’m very happy. But, I’ve been on that side before. I worked very hard, I’m not born like this, I’m not born wealthy. I’ve been at times where I was working three jobs at the same time. You knew me back then, I was broke. I was very broke. I know what a real fighter’s life is for most of them. Most of them doesn’t come from a wealthy family, they have to do a lot of sacrifice. A lot of them have a family to feed and they cannot afford to be treated like this. It shouldn’t be like that and this is not right. And I will always be for the right way, and this is not right.
“I’m not asking for something too much, but we’re asking for a right way. And I think this is something high profile fighters should stand for, fight for, and want that kind of fight. I think it’s a good cause for the sport. It’s not ‘if’ it will happen. It will happen, eventually. Am I going to be part of it, yes or no? I don’t know. This thing just got brought up to me pretty recently.”
As was brought up by the MMAAA in their recent conference call, it appears St-Pierre and the other fighters who have already joined him will be focusing solely on the relationship between athletes and the UFC, rather than MMA in general. It still remains to be seen, however, just how the UFC and their new WME-IMG led ownership will respond.