Ever since its initial beginnings back in the 90s, mixed martial arts — often known by its stylized abbreviation of MMA — has grown exponentially in popularity. What started out as a niche combat sport that was seen only through home videos has grown to a multi-million dollar business with tantamount opportunity. Case in point: The Fertitta Brothers and Dana White have become very successful through their entrepreneurship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Although MMA has improved in its position as a mainstream combat sport and viable business, the improvement is limited when it comes to the treatment of MMA fighters. New rules and regulations may have made it safer for MMA fighters to compete, but how they are treated from a professional standpoint can be questionable. As a matter of fact, it seems that most MMA companies only take the fighters who currently or are predicted to bring in the big bucks into account. For UFC, it is often joked among the MMA community that these fighters include Sage Northcutt, Paige VanZant, Conor McGregor, and Ronda Rousey.
Now, there are numerous MMA fighters standing up against the status quo. One such fighter is Cung Le. The former UFC fighter-turned-Hollywood actor claims that MMA is “not a good business right now.” Le even went as far as to claim the Muhammad Ali Act would bring fairness to MMA.
In an interview with Bloody Elbow, Cung Le spoke on the many issues happening in MMA today. According to the report, a lot of Le’s issues with MMA not only come from research and insight but from personal experience too. Back in 2014, Le tested positive for elevated hGH levels. However, the test was so poorly conducted that many in the MMA community believe it was one of the major catalysts in which UFC sought out the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for their drug testing thereafter.
Cung Le is also one of the three original plaintiffs in a class action antitrust lawsuit filed against UFC, one that continues to this very day.
Cung Le is also a huge supporter of extending the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, simply known as the Muhammad Ali Act or the Ali Act, to MMA through the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act, as reported by Review Journal. The Ali Act, enacted back in 2000, leveled the financial scope of boxing in fairness for the individuals that technically matter the most in the combat sport: the boxers.
Prior to the Ali Act, boxers, who put their personal health and bodies on the line for the entertainment of other, were literally paid pennies in comparison to the total earned during venues. Apparently, what boxers experienced in boxing in the past prior to the Ali Act is what MMA fighters are experiencing today in MMA, as detailed by Cung Le himself.
“The split shouldn’t be only 1/10th for the fighters. The way I see it if there were no fighters the UFC would be bankrupt. All promoters would be broke. Everything rides on the shoulders of the fighters. Yes, there’s the promotion, but the promotion is about the fighters. And the fighters are the one that put in the hard work, putting in the countless hours of work, the ones bleeding. They’re the ones that have to go to the hospital afterwards and have to do rehab for months after a fight. They should be the ones making the money too not just the promoters. So why should the promoters be the only ones that make money?”
There are many MMA fighters who back Cung Le too. Randy Couture, another retired MMA fighting who has competed in UFC, has been vocally in favor of the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act. Couture even went as far as to say that any MMA fighter who opposes the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act is “drinking Dana White’s Kool-Aid.”
Ultimately, we will have to wait to see if the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act is put into place. As for MMA fans who think it will “ruin the sport,” Cung Le responded by asking them to see the situation through the eyes of MMA fighters.
“Try being a fighter. It’s not a great sport for us. It’s not a good business right now. Let’s do something for the fighters for once.”
Besides his continuing presence in the class action lawsuit against UFC, Cung Le has been busy with his acting. Cung Le has two upcoming roles in 2017 in the films Savage Dog and Security.
[Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images]