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What The MMAAA Is All About, From Tim Kennedy

Tim Kennedy was a guest on a recent edition of “Submission Radio” to further explain what the MMAAA is all about.

Check out a transcript of the conversation below:

The difference between MMAAA and the other associations

“I think the biggest difference is the group, the team, the panel that has been put together to make sure that this is executed at the highest level for the right reasons. Our mission is to be able to provide protection and compensation for the athletes. It’s not to line our pockets, it’s not to get an easy buck from money that might be sitting there from the UFC’s recent sale, this is to protect athletes and to protect fighters that have fought, that are currently fighting and that will in the future fight. So in one day after the announcement, we garnered more in the analytics strategically, like just the size of the website, the amount of people that visited, the new followers that we have on our twitter page, the number of fighters that we have that are part of the association, in one day surpassed all of the other efforts combined for their entirety of existence. So the question is, why aren’t you part of the Fighters Association, or a litigation of a class-action lawsuit that has been around for five years now? Four years? This is about changing and making a difference NOW and then moving forward. So this isn’t something that we’re going to wait around for five years to hopefully get an out-of-court settlement or even go in and face the UFC in court. That’s not what’s happening here. We’re here to gather all of the athletes together, understand what their voice is, understand how powerful their voice is and then affect change positively so that fighters aren’t living in poverty with broken bodies and broken brains.”

When we can see the first changes from the MMAAA

“What we will be doing over the course of the next six weeks is, every week we will be announcing, not a new batch of supporters, but the group of fighters that have aligned with the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association. I have literally hundreds more people I need to return calls from yesterday – text messages, Twitter direct messages, emails. I’m in fight camp, eleven, twelve days away from my fight, so some of those calls are gonna happen after my fight, some of those calls I’m handing off to other board members, but in one day I’m supposed to pretty much call back or contact a hundred plus UFC athletes that are saying, hey I want to be part of this. So what you’re going to see over the course of the next six weeks, is attention to who these athletes are, what their stories are, why they want to be part of this. You’re also gonna see stories of retired fighters, or fighters that are in the twilight or their career, that are looking bleakly at what their future looks like. Guys that are hurt, guys that are broken, guys that are damaged. If you look at the Don Fryes and the Mark Colemans, it’s just scary. It’s a scary sad thing. It’s something you don’t want to look at. It’s things that fans don’t want to see or talk about, you know, like, oh let’s just watch what happens in the octagon next Saturday night. I love this sport, I love to fight, I love the thrill and the excitement of it, but we need to be realistic and understand the repercussions of what this sport does to the humans that are in the octagon at the time and what it does to their body and their brains in the future.”

On how Bjorn became a part of the MMAAA as an adviser

“We had to have somebody that understood the promoter perspective. We needed the intimate details of what the negotiations are like on the promoter’s side. When you’re negotiating with an agent, a manager, with an agency, with a firm, with contractual lawyers, when you’re talking to vendors from different venues, when you try to make an agreement with the venue, when you’re talking to different apparel lines, different sponsors, different ticket wholesalers from providing digital content online – like, these are all things, even though the group of guys that are board members know the sport as champions, former champions, longest standing champions, marquee-known name fighters, guys that coach the Ultimate Fighter, it is still the other side we don’t know. So it’s kind of a necessary evil. We have to have that perspective and Bjorn is that perspective. We can’t do it without him. We can’t do it without a guy like that. And I don’t know if he’s trying to right the wrongs that he did as a promoter. That’s his personal position or demons, that’s up to him. What I know is, that his heart is in the right place. I know that he’s trying to do the right thing, and maybe for the first time in his professional career he’s trying to, with everything that he has, at every resource that he has, take care of fighters. You know, maybe as a promoter he was doing his job the best that he could, and in some cases that is taking advantage of fighters, that is creating a bottom line for Viacom, that is proving exciting content. But he knows – we’ll call it the dark side – he knows the dark side very, very, very well. But right now, he is one hundred percent on board to supporting this board and supporting what we want to do. And ultimately, we’re the ones that will do and choose everything. We have all the power. We’re the ones that make all the decisions. When it comes down to a vote, you know, if we want him out of the room, he’s out and we talk about it. But he knows, and he is that expert that will provide that contrasting information about what the promotional side looks like. He knows the business.”

Tim on who is backing the MMAAA financially

“We already have financial backers, but there’s not a lot of financing to be done. Really, it’s about communicating with other athletes. If you look at the guys around the table, you have Team Alpha Male you have AKA, you have Jackson’s, you have Tri-Star, you have the BMF Ranch. ATT is missing, Roufus(port) is missing, Kings MMA is missing, but just right there you have five of the biggest gyms in the sport and five of maybe the eight or nine mega-gyms in the entire world. And I got back to the gym today and right away (I was) talking to fighters, people had questions, you know, ones that aren’t co-located with me during fight camp. So what expenses you’re talking about, you know, we flew in yesterday on our own dimes to have these conversations, to make announcements. We were on a telephone, we didn’t rent a boardroom to do a press conference. I’m a very, very frugal person. Bjorn is a very, very frugal person. GSP is a brilliant businessman that has been so overwhelmingly successful financially both from fight reasons, but also what he’s done outside of the cage. You know, he’s made millions. Cain also very frugal. Cowboy, oh my god, you don’t even want to know with that guy. So we’re doing this economically because it’s not about the money, it’s about the fighters. It’s about taking care of fighters, it’s about taking care of damaged brains, damaged bodies. It’s not the future fighters that are going to be coming in, guys from the Ultimate Fighter that are looking at eight-fight contracts, that are promised pennies, PENNIES to get their brains bashed in. So the initial money backers, they’ll remain anonymous, they one hundred percent support the heart of what this is. You know, they get it, they’re fight fans, they have been to the biggest live events and they’re like, oh my god, these guys put it out there and they need to be protected. They’re heroes. Right now to me, they’re heroes because they’re getting this ball rolling.”

On the possibility of MMAAA staging a strike if their demands aren’t met by the UFC

“I saw like a bunch of bait click articles that populated immediately after he (Bjorn Rebney) talked about it and that’s not what he said. He said in industries like ours, the worst fear in the world is labour, is the people, and in this case it’s the fighters and the athletes. So no, we were not threatening, we weren’t even hinting at that. That is not what this is whatsoever. That is their worst fear, as it has been for baseball and basketball and football and freaken soccer. Like, that is their worst fear. So those cards aren’t even being discussed at any level with any board member right now. I promise. We haven’t been like, ‘oh yeah, collectively let’s all get all the marquee names here’. That’s not mentioned. Right now, our focus is to build the momentum to be able to possibly affect change financially for protection for the athletes, and we have a very clear plan about how that’s going to happen.”

On having a last-second opponent switch in Kelvin Gastelum

“It’s not last second. I was asking for him at UFC 205 and I was aware that he was kind of a backup fighter for UFC 206 in the event that Rashad couldn’t fight. So even in New York, we were already watching fight tape on Gastelum. So I’m very, very excited to prepare for this fight. He’s a tough guy, underappreciated, underrated, very durable, very tough, hard to knockout, hard to submit, you know, powerhouse with his hands, great wrestling. If you look at his record right now, it’s like 15-2 or something, with his two losses being very close split decisions. He’s the real deal.”

On his feelings towards Gastelum after he missed weight at UFC 205 and if there’s any resentment or ill will towards him after that.

“Resentment was never a word I used. His behaviour has been unprofessional. That hasn’t changed. So that’s his problem, that’s not my problem. It’s not like I’m gonna hold a grudge against him or I’m gonna fight any differently because he didn’t make weight for Cowboy’s fight or any of the other fights he hasn’t made weight for. That has nothing to do with me. I am focused on what I’m supposed to do and hopefully he’ll made 185 pounds. If that doesn’t happen, then that will affect me and that will be a different story. You know, we’re professional athletes. Being professional means we’re going to show up on time, we’re going to step on the scale, we’re going to make weight and then we’re going to go in and put on a great show. That’s what I’m gonna do and I hope he’s there to participate.”

Prediction on how he beats Gastelum

“I think he’s gonna… I don’t know what he’s gonna do. I don’t care. I think I’m gonna beat him up on the feet and I think I’m the better kickboxer. And he’s younger and he’s gonna think he’s younger and faster, you know, and that’s not the case. I have more tools and I think honestly I can beat him anywhere.”

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