Global Fighters’ Union Launches, Revolutionizing Combat Sports
With the official launch of The Global Fighters’ Union (GFU) today, combat sports reach a historic turning point. An elite group of athletes, political activists, managers, trainers, and entertainment executives came up with the idea for the GFU. In order to solve common issues in combat sports, the GFU will bring fighters from all around the world together.
The GFU will function similarly to the Musicians’ Union, allowing anybody interested in or currently engaged in combat sports, regardless of ability, gender, race, or region, to join. Fighters who join the GFU will be eligible for a number of benefits, such as better salary and benefits, contract guidance, and professional assistance with insurance, pensions, and retirement planning. The union will prioritize health and safety by forming alliances with professionals in the field, give free legal advice and support, and provide educational opportunities for continuous learning.
One of the few professional industries still lacking union representation and minimal regulation is combat sports. People who make their living from the fight game are frequently denied access to benefits that come with regular working obligations, such as insurance, pensions, and free legal and health and safety assistance. Through special events and seminars organized by industry leaders, the GFU is already cultivating a thriving global network to link fighters—a crucial step toward advocating for the rights and well-being of fighters on a global scale.
Paul and Stephen Smith, brothers and past elite winners, were important players in the GFU’s founding group. The pair contributes a wealth of expertise to the union’s development, having competed at the top levels of boxing for a lifetime—from amateur to professional. In boxing, their brothers Callum and Liam are still competing at the highest level.
“I’m one of four brothers who have all competed in boxing at every level of the sport. Throughout our careers, we’ve experienced first hand practices which are the norm in combat sports – but ones that wouldn’t be allowed in any other profession. The GFU will address those practices to make combat sports a safer, better, fairer business for all involved,” said Paul Smith, former English and British Champion.
“The GFU will be on the side of fighters from the very start of their journey in combat sports to the day they hang up their gloves. We’ve compiled an elite team who will unite their knowledge and experience to help improve the lives of fighters everywhere,” said Stephen Smith, former Commonwealth Champion and now boxing trainer.
Paul Maloney, the union’s crucial founding member and the one that distinguishes it from earlier attempts, is currently serving as acting general secretary. Maloney, a veteran head of the southern GMB Union and former Irish amateur boxer, brings a wealth of expertise to the GFU.
“I retired from leading a region of the GMB Union in 2021, having been a trade unionist for more than 30 years. My working life has been dedicated to improving the working conditions of union members. On retirement, I was approached by several political leaders who wanted me to work with them as an advisor, but instead I decided to run my local boxing club in Epsom. When the GFU approached me and shared their plans, I immediately knew this is what I wanted to do. We are working with the TUC on the final stages of making the GFU an official union which will see us launch officially in the spring. Today’s announcement is to make everyone aware of what we are doing, so we can prepare for our new members,” said Paul Maloney on launching the Union.
“We will be working inclusively with all forms of combat sports, all races, genders and ability levels. What we want to make very clear is that we are taking a positive approach, and are not here to create – and nor will we seek – disputes with any of the current bodies in combat sports, whether it is promoters or boards of control, doping bodies, managers, or coaches,” said Phil McCauley, Co-Founder of the GFU and Labour Party activist sitting on the Labour in Business Executive Committee.
“There is no support for fighters, particularly when they retire; they are on their own. There is nowhere fighters can take serious issues when they arise which has happened to me many times. I’m excited to be a part of the GFU and look forward to helping build its membership worldwide in the coming months and years,” said former two weight World Champion Amir Khan, explaining the urgent need for the GFU.
The GFU wants to be a very positive force that supports fighters and promoters through their hardest times. These are frequently the early stages of a professional career, when people are often unable to continue their development due to a lack of security caused by not having access to insurance, pensions, or other forms of support offered by unions. To the mutual advantage of all, they seek to collaborate constructively with anyone with an interest in combat sports.
(Additional reporting provided by Miriam Onyango)
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