December 26, 2018

UFC 232: The Move To Los Angeles Should Galvanize the Roster; But the Question of Whether It Will Remains

By Raphael Garcia

It’s the holiday season, and to say that Jon Jones is the gift that keeps on giving would be a tremendous understatement -- especially when it comes to MMA media. With less than a week left before UFC 232 was set to close out the year, an issue with a Jones drug test forced UFC leadership to move the event from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, California. As debates continue to unfold around this situation, there’s one group that should be paying especially close attention to the entire conversation: every other fighter on the UFC roster, whether they were booked for action at UFC 232 or not.

Twenty-five other men and women were affected by the actions of one. Whether or not Jones was truly in the wrong in this matter is immaterial; the fact remains that his prior transgressions had a direct impact on the current situation, leading to the relocation of UFC 232. The decision to uproot the show and move it to California was met with reproach by fans and media members, but what was even more interesting was watching fighters openly denounce the decision and explain the affect on them directly. What Corey Anderson posted on Twitter provides a glimpse of the real debate:

“If we all said no we won’t travel again would they just take Jones off the card and keep it in Vegas? Or book 11 new fights, continue to move to LA, and keep the main event the same? Alot of money has been spent in travel fees for my family to be in VEGAS for this fight. I’m not even mad... just disappointed in the company I bust my ass for EVERYDAY...”


Anderson wasn’t the only individual to express this type of sentiment. Nearly every fighter on the card has had something to say about how this situation was handled. Even Frank Mir, who was handed a two-year ban for the same substance that was found in Jones’s system, expressed his disdain over the entire matter. In addition to the inconvenience and increased travel costs, fighters are moving from a state where there isn’t any tax on their purses to a state where they will have to pay up to 13 percent of whatever they earn.

Nevertheless, UFC President Dana White has made it clear that he’s in Jones’s corner, regardless of how questionable this entire matter looks. Here are his comments to ESPN this past Sunday:

"Jon Jones has got his life together and he did not test positive. He did not do anything wrong here. Gustafsson has flown in from Sweden, been here weeks training for this fight. Jon Jones has trained for this fight. Neither guy violated any rules or did anything wrong. These guys need to fight, it's for the title. This is the right thing to do."

That last line is perhaps the most powerful part of that whole quote. Yet how many examples are there of fighters getting one type of "right thing to do" as opposed to another simply because they can draw in viewers and dollars? Brock Lesnar, Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and a few others have seen the benefits of special treatment, using that to leverage their way into bigger deals and better opportunities. But imagine if this was Tyron Woodley or even Khabib Nurmagomedov in the same predicament. Both hold good, but do you think White would have such glowing things to say about them? Do you think White would move an entire event because “these guys need to fight?” As with all other rhetorical questions, these questions do not need an answer.

But for the fighters, whenever these matters come up, both media members and fans point to the absence of a union or association in place to protect them. And while it’s hard to say whether such a group could have prevented the UFC from moving an entire card in this fashion, there at least would have been a larger conversation  possible with such a group protecting the interests of the fighters. Right now, fighters are defenseless, and they lack any type of assistance when it comes to dealing with their best interests.

“UFC fighters, until you organize and collectively bargain you’re going to keep having your divisions threatened, entire card moved (costing you and your friends thousands of dollars), you’ll get cut, get shafted, lied to, brushed off, fed to the wolves, and left on the shelf,”

Leslie Smith via Twitter. 

It’s hard to say whether this situation at UFC 232 will be the “final straw” that causes fighters to push for unionization. It’s sad to see that it has taken this long for the talented men and women on the UFC roster to understand that they need to stand up for themselves, because the UFC clearly will not stand up for them. In the end, Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson will step into the Octagon this weekend, but the conversation surrounding this event shouldn’t just focus on which one of these fighters walks out with the light heavyweight title. Instead, the discussion should encompass the rest of the roster, as they realize (yet again) that UFC fighters need to fight for their rights. Whether this realization translates to action, however, still remains to be seen.


UFC 232
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson 2 (UFC Light Heavyweight Championship)



UFC 232: Jones vs. Gustafsson 2 takes place December 29, 2018 at The Forum in Inglewood, California (formerly T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada).

Click HERE for more UFC 232 Pre-Fight Analysis