The fate of Leslie Smith's legal action against the UFC remains undetermined for now, despite a short-lived celebration last week.
A former UFC bantamweight, Smith, 35, filed a case against the UFC with the National Labor Relations Board earlier this year, accusing the promotion of taking retaliatory actions against her in April and misclassifying fighters as independent contractors rather than statutory employees.
According to Smith's attorney, Lucas Middlebrook, a regional NLRB office informed Smith late last week it intended to file an official complaint against the UFC, after concluding her case had merit. Middlebrook shared that information via social media last Friday.
Later that day, however, the NLRB told Smith the case will first head to the Division of Advice in Washington for re-evaluation.
"It's not uncommon for regional directors or offices to send a case to Division of Advice if there is uncertainty about the case," Middlebrook told ESPN. "But my understanding, based on the conversation I had with the regional office, is they did not feel it needed to be sent. So, the manner of this was odd."
While this new development doesn't indicate Smith's case will be thrown out, it does present a delay from moving forward. Middlebrook told ESPN, based on his experience with the NLRB, that delay could be approximately two or three months.
Smith has accused the UFC of essentially buying out her exclusive contract in April, based on her involvement in a unionization effort titled Project Spearhead.
Smith (10-7-1) was scheduled to fight out her contract, but her opponent missed weight. She tried to renegotiate her deal at that time, but the UFC elected to pay her for the canceled fight and has not expressed interest in re-signing her.
The UFC issued a statement on the matter on Monday.
"We were informed Friday evening that there has been no decision by the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board in this case whether to proceed with a complaint against UFC, contrary to the prior representations of Leslie Smith and her attorney, which are no longer accurate," the statement read.
"We await that decision. UFC presented a strong record of Leslie Smith's status as an independent contractor and demonstrated that anti-union animus did not motivate any decisions at the end of her contract, as UFC continues to have relationships with other athletes who have vocally supported union organizations. We intend to vigorously defend our position, should it be necessary."
Smith's case could have far-reaching implications for the UFC, as its athletes have always been classified as independent contractors. Smith is of strong belief they should be classified as employees.