Disgruntled former UFC bantamweight Leslie Smith has moved forward with her legal action against the promotion, filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
Brett Okamoto of ESPN reported the news citing Leslie Smith’s attorney Lucas Middlebrook.
The Leslie Smith saga has been brewing for quite some time, but came to a head at UFC Atlantic City. Smith was set to face Aspen Ladd, but Ladd missed weight. Smith refused to fight Ladd without a renegotiation of her contract, and the UFC cut her that day after paying Smith her contracted show and win money and considering her contract bought out. While this was happening, Smith was (and still is) the president of Project Spearhead, a fighter unionization effort with the main goal of determining whether or not UFC fighters are employees or independent contractors.
Leslie Smith’s gripe with the UFC, and main content of the complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, is that the promotion has created a climate of fear for their fighters, which is against federal law.
Smith was let go by the promotion in the midst of a three-fight win streak at bantamweight, with a loss in between to Cris Cyborg that welcomed her to the Octagon. With that in mind, Smith claims the motivating factor behind her losing her spot on the roster was the unionization effort, not her in-Octagon performance. If she is determined as an employee, the act of cutting her due to unionization would be illegal.
To counter-act the legal fees required to fight the UFC, Smith has started a gofundme, which has raised nearly $4,000 in 10 days, with a goal of $20,000.
There have been several unionization efforts amongst MMA fighters, but none have been able to pick up steam. In order to prompt the NLRB to determine whether or not fighters are employees, 30-percent of the roster would have to sign on by February of next year. With Leslie Smith and Lucas Middlebrook leading the way, Project Spearhead has a better chance than the previous attempts.