The Fight of Her Life: Meet the MMA Star Who’s Trying to Unionize the Sport

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Many of the MMA fighters you see on national television are living below the poverty line.

Mixed Martial Artists receive a smaller share of revenue than athletes in other major sports. They are paid as independent contractors, denying them even the most basic workplace protections. And unlike most professional athletes in America, they are not represented by a union.

Now, one fighter is trying to change all that.

Leslie Smith has launched Project Spearhead, an organizing drive that will push the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether fighters are actually employees of organizations like the Ultimate Fighting Championship. And she wants the UFC and others to negotiate with the union she hopes to create.


Labor Education Center, 50 Labor Center Way, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Reception: 4:30-5:30 pm

Panel: 5:30-7:00 pm


Leslie Smith. Professional Mixed Martial Artist, Invicta Fighting Championship and Ultimate Fighting Championship. Founder of Project Spearhead, a democratic, fighter-led organization currently working to unionize professional Mixed Martial Artists.

Lucas Middlebrook. Attorney. Partner at Seham, Seham, Meltz and Petersen. Attorney for Project Spearhead.

Wilma Liebman. Visiting Distinguished Scholar at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. Former Chairman and Member of the National Labor Relations Board.


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