Travel Journal (#3): Iowa & The Full Monte

This post is about the second leg of my U.S. trip doing research for my book, “The Political Economy of Ultimate Fighting”. It covers events from 9 October 2017 to 14 October 2017. You can read my past journal entries here:


“In boxing, you will never get a 5-0 fighter [five wins, zero losses] to fight another 5-0 fighter… that’s what I loved about MMA; everyone was willing to fight everyone.”

“I’m godfather to [former UFC heavyweight champion] Tim Sylvia’s son. [former UFC lightweight champion] Jens Pulver was over here this evening watching The Voice. I could hit [former welterweight champion] Pat Miletich’s house with a rock. We’re all still here, we’re still friends. The thing with MMA is that we’ve made lifetime relationships… you can’t have a better time than I’ve had in MMA.”

“I used to say to my fighters, ‘nothing is ridiculous, tell me what you want?’, and then I’d go out there and do my best to get it… Sometimes I would be in a standoff [with UFC matchmaker Joe Silva] for a month before we got the right deal.”

“The upper fighters, headliners and champions, would benefit from the Ali Act. The lower end guys [would] benefit from a union. For me, I can handle the lower end guys myself. I don’t need a union to negotiate good deals.”

That’s just a  few of the many anecdotes and insights long-time MMA manager and promoter Monte Cox shared with me during a phone-interview I conducted with him in September. A former newspaper editor and professional boxer, Monte began promoting MMA shows in 1996 in Iowa and soon after tried his hands at management.  He would go on to be the in-house manager for the Miletich Fighting Systems gym – MMA’s first super camp –  and would represent nine UFC champions and three Bellator champions over the next two decades. Continue reading “Travel Journal (#3): Iowa & The Full Monte”

The MMAAA One Year On

“I’m proud to announce the official launch of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association. It’s gonna be big… we’re changing the sport forever starting today.”

That was Tim Kennedy this time 11 months ago, announcing the formation of the MMAAA alongside former champions Georges St Pierre, Cain Velasquez and TJ Dillashaw, perennial contender Donald Cerrone and former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. The organisation’s aims, outlined in their inaugural teleconference, were threefold: (1) to seek an “enormous settlement” on behalf of active and former UFC fighters; (2) to revise the revenue sharing model so that fighter’s received 50% of revenues; and (3) to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that would entitle fighters to ancillary conditions like pensions and health insurance.

How they were going to do that was less clear – the group expressly ruled out forming a certified labour organisation under the National Labour Relations Act, or bringing litigation against the UFC. But they had the star power and resources give the UFC a serious headache where other efforts, such as Jeff Borris’ Professional Fighters Association, appeared out of their depth. In Rebney’s words, their capacity to create change “came from the megaphone that these athletes speak from.”

You can read the rest of this article at Fight News Australia.

Travel Journal (#1): The Political Economy of Ultimate Fighting

I was 13 years old when I first heard of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. A friend of mine sent me a link to a highlight video featuring a series of rotund men trading haymakers in the centre of an octagonal cage. Thousands of predominantly Caucasian spectators cheered on the brutality in the background, whilst a solemn-faced referee in black pants and a polo shirt paced anxiously a few metres away from the action. Emblazoned on the canvass floor were three huge letters: U F C.

Continue reading “Travel Journal (#1): The Political Economy of Ultimate Fighting”

Bellator is Gaining Ground on the UFC, Last Weekend was Proof

Over the weekend, the MMA Gods smiled down on fight fans.

On Friday night, the UFC’s held it’s first show in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ since 2015 showcasing a number of thrilling contests on the main card. On the following night, Bellator rolled into San Jose, California. They hosted an event stacked with UFC veterans, homegrown commodities and blue-chip prospects.

So, what were the highlights? And, how does this affect the ongoing battle for MMA supremacy between the two promotions? Let’s dive in.

You can read the rest of this article at

The Obstacles to UFC Fighters’ Unionisation

This article examines the prospect of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters forming a certified trade union and entering into collective bargaining with the UFC.

  • It first provides an overview of the UFC’s development from fringe spectacle to mainstream sport and the current economic relationship between the promotion and fighters.
  • It then provides a history of unionisation efforts, before assessing the legal obstacles fighters must overcome in order to get the UFC to the bargaining table.
  • It concludes with a discussion of the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act which would extend economic protections that apply to professional boxers to their counterparts in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and is seen by many as a legislative alternative to labour organising.

You can read the rest of this article at LawinSport.

No Turning Back after May-Mac

This article was originally published on Fight News Australia.


After nearly a year of trash talk, a bizarre media tour and more twists and turns than anyone could have predicted, the fight that was meant to be impossible is now less than a week away. UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA) will make his professional boxing debut against the undefeated, 15-time world champion Floyd Mayweather (49-0) at T Mobile Arena on August 26th, in what will likely be the biggest combat sports event in history.

The fight marks a turning point for the UFC, who have broken convention in allowing McGregor to compete outside the octagon.

Continue reading “No Turning Back after May-Mac”

The Cyborg Chronicles

Chris “Cyborg” Justino was patient and methodical, stalking Tonya Evinger with leg kicks and punches for two and a half round before four crushing knees brought the game but outmatched Evinger to the canvass and forced referee Mike Beltran to intervene and stop the carnage.

The fight lasted longer than some had expected. Evinger, a bantamweight giving Cyborg a ten-pound weight advantage, was a virtual unknown amongst mainstream MMA fans before Saturday and had never competed in the Octagon despite the 135lb division being the UFC’s most established women’s weight class. To make matters worse, she’d taken the fight on short notice, serving as a replacement for the Australian Megan Anderson, who pulled out of the event in late June.

Continue reading “The Cyborg Chronicles”