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The UFC kinda proves ESPN’s point with fighter pay freakout

A lil show on ESPN called Outside the Lines got some great free publicity earlier this week when Dana White flipped out and called it’s segment on UFC fighter pay a ‘hack job.’ There probably weren’t that many people chuffed to get up on Sunday morning to watch a news piece on the UFC … until Dana said this:

I’m excited to smash and discredit ESPN and the piece they did!! So pumped! can’t stand the lying 2 faced media fucks!! So glad we did this one right cause ESPN can NOT be trusted. can’t stand the lying 2 faced media fucks!!

All of a sudden the show sounds a bit more interesting, doesn’t it? The segment itself was nothing too explosive for those of us who’ve followed the sport for a while. New fighters get paid as low as 6k/6k and there’s arguments over what percentage of the UFC’s money is going to fighters. While opinions may be split on whether one thinks current pay figures are fair, the more interesting part of this story lies in the curtain of silence the UFC has managed to pull across the scene:

“Outside the Lines has spoken with more than 20 current, former and potential UFC fighters, as well as agents and promoters,” ESPN’s John Barr said as he strolled around a cage in the televised segment. “To a person, they say UFC fighters have not received their fair share of the company’s rapidly increasing revenue. Nearly all of them also refused to speak on camera, for fear the UFC would blackball them.”

What do you say about that, Lorenzo Fertitta?

Fertitta, CEO of Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the UFC, said dissent among fighters is not only commonplace but tolerated.

“Anybody can talk about anything. We’ve had plenty of situations where fighters have come out and made statements. … Have they been blackballed or banned? Absolutely not,” Fertitta said.

O RLY? That’s funny because it certainly seemed like Roger Huerta was blackballed when he complained about fighter pay and unpaid promotional appearances to FIGHT magazine a few years ago. Not only did they bench him for over a year before turfing him out of the promotion, they retroactively went back and removed him from re-airings of events he fought on.

There was also that incident with Jon Fitch and AKA. The UFC was in the middle of securing likeness rights from their roster for shit like the UFC videogames and Fitch had the temerity to say “I don’t think it’s fair we shoud give this stuff up for life, for free.” Not only did Dana White fire Fitch, he fired Fitch’s entire camp. Cooler heads prevailed, but if that incident doesn’t show you why UFC fighters are a little bit skittish when it comes to stuff like this, I don’t know what will.

The UFC’s reaction to this ESPN piece itself encapsulates exactly the kind of problem the show was trying to underscore. A news media outlet decides to do a story on fighter pay. The UFC freaks out, calling the people behind it hacks and “lying 2 faced media fucks” … before they even see it!

“I don’t even have to see the completed piece,” White told ( following Friday’s UFC 142 weigh-ins in Rio de Janeiro. “They didn’t even have to show up for the interview for me to know what they were doing. That’s why I didn’t do the interview. I refused. I turned it down. They wanted me and (UFC co-owner) Lorenzo (Fertitta). I refused and turned it down.

“I want nothing to do with ESPN’s sneaky [expletive] ‘E:60′ and ‘Outside the Lines’ and all their crock of [expletive] shows. These guys come out with an agenda.”

Yeah, the UFC doesn’t over-react to people bringing up fighter pay at all.

  • thingvolds

    good post.

    zuffa isn’t just going to suddenly start handing undercard guys more money. there has to be a fight, there has to be investigations, there has to be pressure on them for them to do that. this is how it always is in all sports.

    should undercard guys be getting 50k a fight? probably not. but should they receive a living wage? absolutely.

    the dark days are over. the time for these guys to get a living wage is long overdue.

  • Blackula Jonez

    I think the hourglass of Dana’s tenure as UFC president has less sand in than we would assume.

    If the UFC does manage to reach and maintain true mainstream status I don’t know for sure if a guy like Dana will still be operating in the same capacity.

  • Symbul

    Business as usual.

  • agentsmith

    I don’t care how much of an unknown someone is when they first show up in the UFC, no one should get less than $10K to show.  Especially since that’s what even the also-rans from TUF typically get.

  • SkippyKid

    You guys are fooling yourselfs if you think undercard guys should get more money.

    You could take any of the UFC undercard guys and replace them with guys from some awful local show and no one would care or know the difference.

    The UFC pays those guys just enough so they dont starve so they can keep training. The UFC loses money on those guys – NO ONE is paying to see them.

  • fightlinker

    it’ll be better for everyone when getting into the UFC means making enough to persue fighting full time. I’m all for 10k/10k as the base pay for everyone making it into the UFC. I don’t worry too much about mid-card fighters, they’re doing pretty good and smart financial planning + sponsorships and bonuses mean they’ll be able to take the money from 3-5 years of UFC fighting and use it to make a good living off the scene for the rest of their lives.

    As for the top guys ‘not getting enough’ … fuck that. 2 million plus is more than reasonable for a fight, and the UFC puts so much money into making sure there’s a functioning platform that exists for these guys to fight on and make that kind of money. The number of people the UFC employs and the amount of money they sink into promoting the fights and their fighters are a key reason why the sport continues to be successful. How anyone can point to how boxing is run like they do things better because a handful of guys suck the pot dry is amusing to me

  • thingvolds

    “You could take any of the UFC undercard guys and replace them with guys from some awful local show and no one would care or know the difference.”

    no, you couldn’t. could you take someone from a local softball league and put him in even a minor league baseball game and expect people not to care or notice? don’t be silly.

  • SkippyKid

    Thingvolds – Yes you could. It’s not like MLB.

    The guys fighting on the undercard are guys with like 7 or 8 fights – there are so many guys like that out there. Literally hundreds if not thousands.

    The UFC is a lot of smoke and mirrors. The top end guys (top 50 guys) are good fighters with a name. The next 200 are avg fighters who have a name because they have fought in the UFC – if another guy came in when they had then it would be THAT guy who has the ‘name’.

    The last 50 guys are bums from local shows.

  • agentsmith

    ^ No, the UFC isn’t like Bellator who just hires anonymous local scrubs to fill up the undercard.  Look at the names on the prelims for UFC 142: Pyle, Omigawa, Gonzaga, Tavares, Stout.  Obviously those aren’t noobs, but the point is that even being in the prelims in the UFC means facing tougher competition than you’ll find almost anywhere else.  Even the noobs aren’t just warm bodies, they’re dudes who have been scouted and are getting their shot at the big leagues.  Of course they need to prove themselves, but no one in the big show should get only 4-figure paydays.

  • glassjawsh

    meep, this pay scale mirrors the pay scale in every other industry in the united states today. a top few make almost all the money and the rest are left to fight over the scraps.

    occupy ufc

  • P W

    Apparently BLAF and Rumb Fatty Johnson resort to the same kind of language and attitude when faced by criticism.

  • Rye

    For sure, but not every other industry in the US forces you to get punched in the face.

    But yea, I think 10K/10K would be good for simple economics: more pay = more training + more interest of prospects = better fighters/matches. Then that will equal more PPV’s/promotion/interest all together.


    Who is “forced” to get punched in the face?


    The guys who are making the most money…. how did they achieve such a high level of pay? Did they “get lucky” or did they work their asses off?

    The UFC is no different than any other company. The majority of it’s employees come in at entry level positions and the opportunity for advancement is there. If fighters put in hard work, are loyal to the company and deliver results their pay will increase and their position / status in the company will go up. If they don’t produce, their pay will reflect it and they won’t be around for long.

    How about an example where a guy worked his way up from the bottom?

    Georges St. Pierre:

    UFC 46 (1/31/2004) = $3,000 + $3,000
    UFC 48 (6/19/2004) = $4,000 + $4,000
    UFC 50 (10/22/2004) = Unknown (New Jersey) *Loss
    UFC 52 (4/16/2005) = $9,000 + $9,000
    UFC 54 (8/20/2005) = $13,000 + $15,000
    UFC 56 (11/19/2005) = $16,000 + $19,000
    UFC 58 (3/4/2006) = $24,000 + $24,000
    UFC 65 (11/18/2006) = $29,000 + $29,000
    UFC 69 (4/7/2007) = Unknown (Texas) *Loss
    UFC 74 (8/25/2007) = $70,000 + $70,000
    UFC 79 (12/29/2007) = $80,000 + $80,000
    UFC 83 (4/19/2008) = Unknown (Canada)
    UFC 87 (8/9/2008) = Unknown (Minnesota)
    UFC 94 (1/31/2009) = $200,000 + $200,000
    UFC 100 (7/11/2009) = $200,000 + $200,000
    UFC 111 (3/27/2010) = Unknown (New Jersey)
    UFC 124 (12/11/2010) = Unknown (Canada)
    UFC 129 (4/30/2011) = Unknown (Canada)


    Fight Night Bonuses:

    UFC 79 Submission of the Night = $50,000
    UFC 87 Fight of the Night = $60,000
    UFC 124 Fight of the Night = $100,000


    PPV % = Unknown


    During a recent interview Georges acknowledged that he makes somewhere between $4,000,000 and $5,000,000 per fight. Not too bad for a guy who started out making $3,000 + $3,000 on the undercard.

    Link to the interview where he talks about making $4-$5 mil:

  • SelfDestructo

    It seems everybody has this threshold of $10k/$10k being the magic minimum for UFC noobs and everything will ok. I can only figure that’s because it’s a nice round number.

    Typically fighter payouts are like what short_bus mentioned above. They go up after each subsequent fight. By fight 3, they are making the magical 10k/10k now.

    UFC Noob First Year Pay
    3 fights
    Record 2-1 (any worse and you probably get cut. and if you can’t go 2-1 vs other bottom feeders, you don’t deserve to be in the UFC)

    $6k/$6k(win bonus)
    $8k(loss, no win bonus)
    $10k/$10 (win bonus)
    Fight purse winnings: $40k.

    If you have an agent worth a lick, he should have gotten you an at least an additional $5k-10k in sponsorships. Maybe more?

    Not mention possibilities of fight/KO/sub of the night bonuses, plus a chance of the discretionary bonuses if you “bring it,” which can be multiples of your base pay.

    You also get health coverage that I wouldn’t even know how to value. $5k? $10k? It can’t be cheap to get insured as a fighter.

    There’s also the value you get of being a “UFC FIGHTER.” Whether thats for sponsorships, jobs working at gyms, of future fights outside of the UFC, or networking, there’s REAL value to it.

    First year income: $50k to well over $100k+ depending on performance.

    I don’t call that starving. Yes, they have pay for training, coaches, etc…

    But… if you fight 3 times a year, including training camp, thats only 24 weeks. You have plenty of time to try to to make ends meat when you’re not in training camp. If you were a full-time fighter before you were in the UFC, then the above scenario probably isn’t all that bad as you were probably broke fighting on the regional scene already.

  • Letibleu

    nice one

  • frickshun

    Thanks to Short Bus & SelfDestructo for some common fucking sense AND facts.

  • Jarman

    The whole signing likeness rights away for life for no extra monetary figure is a little scary…..but I’m not thinking that’s all that different for any other sport. When contract details for hockey get public, you never see some figure at the bottom for likeness rights. But they’re still putting gretzky and lemieux in video games, and I highly doubt they’re getting a dime of that cash.