UFC doubles lobbying efforts on the Ali Expansion Act

Wisconsin in good hands with backup point guard Bronson Koenig at the helm

In September I reported that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) had spent in excess of $100,000 on lobbyists to work on preventing H.R. 5365 (aka the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act) from being enacted into US law.

My previous report described an estimated $130,000 being spent by the UFC on lobbyists for work on H.R. 5365, based on public documents which were available between January and September, 2016.

Now that we’ve entered a new financial quarter, new data has been published revealing how much more money the UFC have since spent to lobby this bill.

The newly released documents reveal the following expenditure:

In a document dated October 17th, 2016 ‘ZUFFA LLC’ disclosed an estimated $30,000 payment to SB Strategic Consulting (whom they have commissioned on many other occasions) for the lobbying activity they defined as ‘Ali Act monitoring’ within the US Senate and House of Representatives.

In a document dated October 19th, 2016, ‘ZUFFA LLC dba Ultimate Fighting Championship’ disclosed an estimated $80,000 payment to Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP (another lobbying firm ZUFFA has used on previous occasions). This document stated that the payment was to be used to lobby two issues. The first was ‘Piracy of copyrighted programming’, with lobbyists instructed to target the US Senate and US House of Representatives. The second issue was ‘H.R. 5365 – Muhammad Ali Expansion Act’ with lobbyists told to focus on the US Senate, US House of Representatives, and the Department of Justice.

A third document (dated October 20th, 2016) revealed that the ‘Ultimate Fighting Championship’ had spent another estimated $50,000 – this time to pay Farragut Partners LLP (another previously hired company) for ‘Work on the Muhammad Ali Act’ within the US Senate and House of Representatives.

The newly released documents reveal an estimated total of $160,000 spent on new lobbying efforts relating to H.R. 5365 (and piracy of copyrighted programming). Combined with previous reports, this means the UFC has now spent up to an estimated $290,000 so far relating to this issue.

The original Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act was enacted into law on May 29th, 2000. Supporters of expanding this law to include mixed martial arts (MMA) argue that this would protect MMA fighters from ‘coercive’ contracts, as well as level the playing field between fighters and the sport’s most powerful promoters.

One argument used by those who oppose the bill, is that such a reform would force MMA to adopt a confusing (and frustrating) system of rankings and match-making, similar to what currently exists in professional boxing.

H.R. 5365 is sponsored by Representative Markwayne Mullin (a Republican from Oklahoma’s 2nd congressional district). The bill has been co-sponsored by Republicans Larry Bucshon (Indiana’s 8th district), Peter King (New York’s 2nd district), Jason Smith (Missouri’s 8th district), and Jeff Denham (California’s 10th district). The bill has also been co-sponsored by two Democrats; Joseph Kennedy (Massachusetts’ 4th district) and Mark Takano (California’s 41st district). Takano was the most recent co-sponsor, joining the effort on September 9th.

H.R. 5365 is currently being evaluated by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and their Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. The bill is also being evaluated by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Larry Bucshon sits on the Committee for Energy and Commerce. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R CA-50) sits on the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. Rep. Hunter was a vocal opponent of US Navy SEALs using MMA to train in hand-to-hand combat. The congressman went as far as to attempt to block the appointment of a prospective SEAL commander (Rear Admiral Timothy G. Szymanski) who favored MMA training over the previously used Close Quarter Defense (CQD) system.*

Committee chairs determine whether a bill will move past the committee stage. Rep. Tim Walberg (R MI-7) is chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. Rep. Fred Upton (R MI-6) is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Should H.R. 5365 pass the committee stage, it would then face a vote before the House. If it passes that vote, it will then need to pass through the Senate before being signed into law by the President of the United States.

Bloody Elbow will continue to track (and accumulate) the UFC’s lobbying efforts in relation to H.R. 5365, and other issues pertaining to mixed martial arts.

For further analysis of H.R. 5365, including what the bill contains and what might happen to MMA and the UFC if it became law, see Bloody Elbow’s own Paul Gift and John S. Nash and their June 8th Show Money podcast (posted below). For even more info, also check out Nash’s April 18th interview with Rep. Mullin.

*Despite Rep. Hunter’s objections Rear Adm. Szymanski will assume the role of commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, and thus US Navy SEAL members will likely still be permitted to train in mixed martial arts.