The UFC Has A Human Rights Problem

One curious fact about the UFC of which a lot of people aren't aware is that the repressive government of Abu Dhabi owns a substantial minority stake in it. With the promotion staging a fight card there tomorrow, Bloody Elbow's Brent Brookhouse rightly figured it would be a good time to remind fans of what that means.

A lot of what's here is a primer on the horrific human rights record of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates, which among other things includes the jailing of LGBT people, political dissidents, and rape victims. It also involves just the sort of abuse of migrant workers that reporters and NGOs describe as integral to the construction of 2022 World Cup infrastructure (and which Qatar's Supreme Committee of Delivery & Legacy would very much like people to stop talking about).

This last bit is significant because Brookhouse, noting that tomorrow's fights will be held in a stadium which has been built just to host them and will be torn down after the UFC leaves, asked the promotion who exactly would be doing all the work, and got the following non-response:

UFC is partnered with a leader in event management and promotion in the region, Flash Entertainment. As a leader in the region, Flash adheres to industry standards as it relates to its event production, one of which is the UFC event from Abu Dhabi this weekend.

There's a lot to parse here, but one key point is that "partner" isn't really the right descriptor for Flash Entertainment, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi government that purchased a 10% stake in the UFC in 2010. If Flash is adhering to "industry standards" in the sense that it's using workers who have had their passports confiscated and their pay withheld, then, the story would basically amount to "UFC owner using forced labor to produce UFC event."

For any fight fans tempted to complain that we just focus on the negative when it comes to the sport, we'll note that in addition to giving a dodgy answer when asked if they're profiting from the use of forced labor, the promotion also recently confirmed that Demetrious Johnson will be defending his 125 lb. title against Ali Bagautinov in June, in what should be a terrific fight.

[Bloody Elbow]