What Does a Las Vegas Casino Have to Do With the Battle Over a UFC Match in Boston?

A union in Nevada and the co-owners of the UFC have brought their problems to the city.

For years, a union in Las Vegas has been embroiled in a battle with the co-owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship league because of their stake in casinos in Nevada.

It’s that fight, outside of the ring, that UFC President Dana White said has prompted the union to follow the sporting league from city to city, trying to get scheduled bouts canceled, and smearing his name in the process. “They are like gnats. They are like buzzing little gnats that won’t go away,” said White, who was in Boston on Tuesday to promote an upcoming UFC fight at the TD Garden. “People [in this union] are doing dirty things, and it continues to go on even now.”

The UFC’s parent company, Zuffa LLC, is majority-owned by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who also happen to own part of the non-unionized Station Casinos in Las Vegas.

It’s there that members of UNITE HERE, which represents Culinary Union Local 226, the group that has been pushing to unionize workers at the casino, have been fighting with the Fertitta brothers, and the friction over labor disputes has now made its way to Boston as the city prepares to welcome the fighting league for the first time in years.

The re-introduction of a UFC match at the TD Garden, which takes place on August 17, hasn’t been an easy one, White said, as the union continues to amass support to cancel fights, and has even worked with Boston City Councilor Stephen Murphy to file a resolution to keep minors from attending the event, claiming that the fights encourage sexism, extreme violence, and racism.

The Boston chapter of UNITE HERE Local 26 backed legislation filed by Murphy to keep underage attendees out of the fights, and on Tuesday during a public hearing at City Hall, spoke out against the UFC. “It is one thing for grown adults to watch other adults pummel each other in cages, but it is quite another for children with impressionable minds to be exposed to such spectacles of violence,” said Henry Green, financial secretary and treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 26.

Union members even tried to keep the fight from happening at all, petitioning the state license obtained by the UFC for one of the fighters at the August 17 match during a hearing with the Massachusetts athletic commission this week. Despite the outcry from Local 26, the fighter was granted the license to compete.

According to financial campaign records, a group out of New York City, associated with UNITE HERE donated $500 to Murphy’s camp in 2011. Murphy did not immediately return calls about the connection between that outfit and the group that has backed his resolution to ban underage kids from attending fights in Boston.

White said these “dirty moves” are merely an extension of the ongoing feud in Las Vegas with his business partners, and the latest actions are just another tactic to try and stick it to the Fertitta brothers. But White is trying to dismiss the personal attacks as he gets thrown into the mix because of his ties with the UFC. “I could give a flying fuck about the Culinary Union. They can kiss my ass. I couldn’t care less about them,” he said, adding that they created a website called UnfitForChildren.org, where they smear his name and the fighting league’s reputation. “They use these different groups and organizations, like women’s groups, and they go in and they misinform them about the UFC.”

Murphy’s legislation to keep kids from attending UFC matches has also been backed by researchers and doctors from Boston, who support claims that the UFC can negatively affect young children while also encouraging sexism and violence.

White said calling out the UFC events for allegedly setting a bad example for younger kids contradicts support the city gives to baseball games held at Fenway Park. “Have you been to some Yankees versus Red Sox games? Let me tell you what you won’t see at UFC fights that you will see there—little kids sitting with baseball hats on with their parents as all these drunk kids around them are yelling ‘Hey [Derek] Jeter, your mother is a fucking whore,’” he said. “These are literally things I have heard at the games, and you don’t hear that at the UFC. It doesn’t happen at the UFC. It’s not like that.”

He said in all the years the UFC has put on fights, including in Massachusetts in 2010, no child has ever been “destroyed” after watching the events. According to city officials, demand for the fights has even been minimal. Since 2010, there have been only two applications filed to hold the fights in Boston.

While neither this fight nor the admittance of minors could be stopped in Boston, the match outside the ring will continue as long as both the union and Murphy have their way.

But White said he is prepared to take on the pressure being applied to his organization. “They are figuring that if they put all this pressure on the UFC these guys will cave over [the union dispute]. But what they don’t realize is that this is a battle they are going to be fighting for a very long time,” White said, adding that he may reconsider coming back to Boston in the future due to stringent laws.

Murphy said Tuesday during the hearing on his resolution that he would bring the legislation before the full City Council at the next scheduled meeting. “Here in my city, I hope that [the UFC] gets the message that this type of stuff just doesn’t go on,” Murphy said.