A middle-of-the-road media teleconference briefly turned into an informal union meeting as World Series of Fighting signees Jacob Volkmann (15-4) and Jon Fitch (24-5-1) swapped ideas about collective bargaining.
“I did have a question for Fitch after this question,” Volkmann said in response to a query from MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) about his feelings about the promotion. “I was wondering if Fitch wanted to get a fighter’s union started for the UFC, to see if we can get a union started so fighters have a little better pay and a little more leverage in their contract.”
As it turned out, Fitch already was on the same page. Like Volkmann, he had been unceremoniously released from the industry-leader following a loss and signed with the WSOF. In several interviews after his departure, he criticized the UFC’s business practices.
Both Fitch and Volkamnn will turn over a new leaf when they compete on June 14 at the upstart promotion’s third event, which takes place at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The event’s main-card airs live on NBC Sports Network following prelims that will stream at MMAjunkie.com.
“That’s something I’ve been talking about a lot lately,” Fitch responded to Volkmann. “I wouldn’t so much go after the pay necessarily, but there are some things I would go after right away, which would be giving fighters a voice.
“We don’t get a say in rules; we don’t get a say in [testosterone-therapy replacement] use or marijuana use or anything. The commissions (and the promoters) decide everything. The fighters need a voice somewhere.”
Since his release from the UFC, the 32-year-old Volkmann has been an outspoken critic of the UFC’s pay structure and has also spoken about uniting fighters to lobby for better pay and conditions. To date, his comments haven’t ignited much of a movement.
Volkmann’s comments have been countered by UFC parent Zuffa, which claims it’s made 70 new millionaires of its fighters since assuming control of the promotion in 2001.
But the always-vocal Volkmann is on a mission to lessen the gap between the lower-tier fighters and marquee attractions. Responding to an earlier comment from Fitch about a hostile work environment and fear of release in the UFC, he offered an idea to provide fighters more job security.
“I would change the contract so it’s not a four-fight (contract) and you can get cut after one fight,” Volkmann said. “I would make it a two-year contract, minimum, and a minimum of two fights per year, and I would definitely change the minimum pay to be around $15,000 per fight. So at least they get paid $30,000 (per year) minimum for the fighter.
“I think they can afford it. They have big pockets. Everyone knows they have big pockets, because they’re buying out Strikeforce and other competitors and trying to bully them out. It would help the competitors like World Series to survive if the UFC actually had to focus on paying the fighters better.”
Uniting fighters remains the biggest obstacle to Volkmann’s vision, and indeed, every supporter of collective bargaining. He said he planned to contact a rep for the NFL Player’s Association after speaking with an NFL player that’s also a client in his day job as a chiropractor.
“I have all the contact information for all the fighters in the UFC, so that’s the hard part,” he said.
“You’d have to get a lot of support from other unions, also,” Fitch offered. “Because if you have union support from people who host the shows and run the event, the people who sell the concessions, if all those people are on board, you have a lot more power.”
The onetime UFC title challenger said the support of his management didn’t translate into better treatment.
“If you had good management, they automatically were not your friend,” added Fitch. “If your managers were doing their job, you were put in the back corner.”
A WSOF PR rep then interrupted the discussion and urged teleconference participants to focus on the upcoming event.
For now, the fighters will carve out a living in the WSOF, which is planning events in August and September. Fitch stands to bank $60,000 with a win over fellow headliner Josh Burkmann, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which oversees next Friday’s event. Volkmann’s pay for a main-card bout with Lyle Beerbohm could not be verified at the time of this writing.
For the latest on WSOF 3, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Jacob Volkmann)