Bryan Armen Graham
Friday October 7th, 2011

If anyone might have an interest in an anti-trust investigation against the UFC, it's Jon Fitch -- but he could be better served by a fighters' union. (AP)

An unlikely source is criticizing the UFC. It’s not a fighter unhappy with his contract or an agent who thinks his client deserves a title shot.

No, it’s a group of cooks.

As reported in a post on The Economist's Game Theory blog, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a Las Vegas-based trade union that represents 60,000 hotel and casino employees, has written a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking them to investigate the UFC for “widespread anti-competitive practices.” It also suggests that the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act -- a law passed in 2000 to protect boxers from greedy promoters and sanctioning bodies since there is no single governing organization in boxing -- could possibly be expanded to mixed martial arts.

The key difference between the Ultimate Fighting Championship and other top-level professional sports leagues in America is UFC fighters aren’t unionized. Expanding the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to MMA would give fighters more freedom, and therefore more leverage, which might be a good thing. To see a UFC fighter who could use some more leverage one needs look no further than consensus No. 1 welterweight contender Jon Fitch.

Fitch was briefly cut by the UFC when he refused to sign a lifetime contract with THQ to be included in the UFC Undisputed video-game franchise. Although he was uncomfortable giving THQ his lifetime video rights, Fitch relented when he realized his choice was sign the contract or never fight in the UFC again. UFC commissioner Dana White re-signed the welterweight after he agreed to the contract with THQ.

Video-game deals, however, shouldn’t be Fitch’s No. 1 gripe with the UFC. Since his UFC 87 loss to Georges St-Pierre he has won five straight fights before a controversial draw to B.J. Penn. Unlike the Gray Maynard-Frankie Edgar draw, which will be put to rest Saturday at UFC 136, Fitch will come back to fight in another no-win fight against a low-ranked up-and-coming contender whom he is favored to beat: Johny Hendricks. Fitch’s ground-and-pound style (which critics like to call lay-and-pray) and inability to finish fights (his last nine have gone to the judges scorecards) has given him a reputation as boring fighter who can’t sell pay-per-view cards.

The bottom line is that White does hold much more power over his organization than any other pro sports commissioner, but to break up the UFC wouldn’t help anyone in the sport. It would fragment it like boxing instead of elevating it closer to an NFL or NBA. UFC fighters, or a least Jon Fitch, would benefit more from a fighters’ union, something UFC executive Lorenzo Fertitta has said is, “up to them.”

-- Stephen Boyle

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