With UFC schedule on hold, freelance production crew hoping for financial support

While many UFC fighters currently don’t know when they’ll get a chance to earn their next paychecks, they aren’t the only ones impacted by the promotion’s indefinite hiatus.

Several dozen independent contractors who assist in producing the company’s live events also are wondering if they’ll receive any compensation for dates that already have been postponed or canceled.

MMA Junkie heard from two such workers who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared backlash from ConCom, the production company that hires the freelance workers to help produce UFC events. Each expressed frustration that they have been left in the dark since the UFC’s March 14 event in Brazil while the organization tries to map out its return to live action.

“In these uncertain times, the UFC television production crew is hoping that the UFC and ConCom would provide assistance for the crew that performs for them on a weekly basis,” one worker wrote in a statement given to MMA Junkie. “The crew members leave their families, travel across the world and work long hours because they love what they do. They understand that the show is bigger than any one of them, and they were willing to put themselves in harm’s way in order to allow Dana White and the UFC to continue on with their shows during the coronavirus pandemic.”

The workers in question include the crew responsible for the in-house audio and video elements visible to attending fans, as well as workers on the broadcast production side.

ConCom officials, who are directly responsible for the hiring and payment of the independent contractors, did not respond to a request for comment from MMA Junkie.

Meanwhile, UFC officials have remained adamant that the promotion eventually will hold all 42 events planned for the 2020 calendar year, despite the massive impact the COVID-19 outbreak continues to have on sports around the globe. In terms of the independent contractors who have been left without income for the past month, UFC executives said a determination for any financial assistance has not yet been determined.

“UFC is still reviewing and determining compensation in light of this very fluid situation,” promotion officials wrote in a statement to MMA Junkie.

The coronavirus pandemic first impacted the UFC schedule at its March 14 card in Brasilia, which was held behind closed doors due to a government ban on large gatherings in the Brazilian capital. Several of the freelance workers then were slated to travel to London for the following week’s UFC on ESPN+ 29 card and say they were asked if they were willing to make the trip.

“I am unaware of anyone from the UFC production crew not agreeing to go to London,” one worker stated. “For the good of the show and because we have such a strong and loyal crew, we were willing to potentially put ourselves and our families at risk of contracting the virus and maybe even the possibility of being stuck or quarantined in a foreign country just so the show could go on.”

When UFC officials attempted to relocate that event to the U.S., the freelance workers again expressed their willingness to work at a new location. But five days before the card, UFC officials announced the London event would be postponed, and the workers were told they would be paid for two-and-a-half days, despite most of the crew being contracted for six days.

UFC officials also announced additional domestic cards scheduled for subsequent weeks in Ohio and Oregon would be postponed, and the workers say they have yet to hear anything about potential compensation for those dates.

The crew hoped to return to work at this week’s UFC 249 event, but with the indefinite postponement of the promotion’s schedule, there has been a very significant impact on the income of the freelance workers, despite the fact that full-time employees of the UFC and ConCom thus far continue to be paid during the turbulent period.

“The television freelancers that work for the UFC are paid by the event, so if there are no shows and they don’t work, they don’t get paid,” one worker stated. “We had been confirmed on those UFC shows for months and had passed up work on other shows that we cannot get back now.

“As freelance workers, we are not provided with any benefits from the UFC or ConCom. All medical coverage is paid for out of our own pockets. Many of us had passed up on other work on other sporting events in order to work the UFC events. And now, many of those organizations are compensating the freelance workers that they had to cancel because of the coronavirus situation, but the UFC production crew is not being compensated.”

UFC officials on Monday announced a targeted May 9 return to live action, though the possibility of hosting an event without government intervention is anything but certain. In the meantime, the independent contractors left in waiting are hoping ConCom and the UFC can commit resources to their cause.

While other sports leagues and major franchises have announced initiatives to help stadium workers and event staff to stabilize their incomes as the pandemic continues to threaten the cancellation of entire seasons, as well as a massive number of one-off events, the freelance workers involved in UFC production say they feel “forgotten.”

“The UFC production team is a very dedicated, loyal and hardworking crew,” one worker stated. “We have always given our best for the UFC product and the shows that they produce for and with them for the past 25-plus years. Now, the UFC production crew needs the UFC to be loyal to us – to step up, to do the right thing, and to support the people who have always supported them.”