Leslie Smith is taking legal action against the Ultimate Fighting Championship, just as she promised last week.
According to multiple reports, the former UFC bantamweight filed a charge against the Las Vegas-based promotion with the National Labor Relations board on Wednesday. Smith believes the UFC bought out her contract in retaliation for her role with Project Spearhead, which is an attempt to unionize fighters under the organization’s banner. Smith, a seven-time Octagon veteran, was scheduled to face Aspen Ladd at UFC Fight Night 128 in Atlantic City, N.J., on April 21. The contest was canceled when Ladd missed weight for the 135-pound contest by 1.8 pounds. As a result, the UFC paid Smith $62,000 for the final fight on her contract and informed her that they would not be giving her a new deal.
Lucas Middlebrook, who is the legal consultant for Project Spearhead, drafted the 12-page complaint, which was obtained by MMAjunkie.com and can be viewed in its entirety here.
“Dare to form, join or assist a union and you too will accompany Ms. Smith not fighting in the UFC,” Middlebrook wrote in the complaint. “This message contravenes the very purpose of the (National Labor Relations Act) and ZUFFA cannot be allowed to continue flouting the Act. No person or entity is above the law.”
Smith had won three of her last four appearances, including a second-round stoppage of Amanda Lemos in her most recent outing at UFC Fight Night 113. One bout prior, she garnered “Fight of the Night” honors for a decision victory over Irene Aldana at UFC on Fox 22. Meanwhile, her lone defeat came when she agreed to face Cristiane Justino – a fighter who often struggles to find opponents -- in a catchweight bout at UFC 198. In short, Smith was in a position that would often lead to a new UFC contract under different circumstances.
“There simply can be no dispute ZUFFA took adverse action against Ms. Smith, and based on the facts set forth herein and those to be uncovered in the investigation into this issue, ZUFFA’s animus toward Ms. Smith’s protected activity was the substantial or motivating reason for the adverse action(s) taken against her,” Middlebrook wrote.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto has reported that the UFC’s version of the situation “differs greatly” than Smith’s interpretation. The promotion has yet to officially comment on the matter, but that could change soon once its legal team delivers a response to the complaint.