In recent months we’ve heard a lot of speculation that certain high-level fighters in the UFC weren’t happy with their contractual status within the promotion. However, despite all these rumblings and rumors, there was absolutely no hard evidence to back up all the talk. It was hard to decipher whether there were truth to the reports, or if there was simply a campaign of misinformation taking place.
Well, FIGHT!’s Neal Talfinger has finally gotten a UFC fighter to go on the record about his unhappiness with the UFC. And the first fighter outside of Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture to speak out is a fighter that has been branded by some pundits as a “golden boy” of the UFC, Roger Huerta.
The following is an excerpt from the current issue of FIGHT!, which is available on newsstands now:
Huerta is one of a growing number of Zuffa-contracted fighter who feel that there is a disconnection between the company’s success and the way fighters are compensated. Huerta’s disillusionment with the UFC began when he did press tours for his employer in Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, and London and received a $50 per diem for his troubles. It sounds like a a good deal until you factor in time away from training, friends, and family, days often stretch twelve hours or more, and an exchange rate of one UK pound for two American dollars. “Why do you think I don’t do PR for the UFC any more?” he asks.
He’s also unhappy with the terms of his current contract, but to Huerta, the press tours underscore a larger point: by and the large, Zuffa does not treat its contracted fighters with sufficient loyalty or respect. He argues that many UFC fighters barely make enough to cover their training expenses. He brings up teammate Keith Jardine repeatedly, incensed that a main event fighter is working for ten and ten- $10k to show and 10k to win – while his opponent regularly makes ten times as much.
Huerta’s expression hardens and becomes more animated as talk turns to endorsements. The common counter-argument for complaints about fighter pay is that fighters often make more from endorsements and sponsorships than they do for competing. But Huerta has soured on the system after receiving lowball offers from companies who expect fighters to jump at the chance to endorse products. He rails against a Fortune 500 company for offering a deal to build him as a spokesman that included unpaid work. “Are you serious?” Huerta ask. “I know Dale Earnhardt Jr isn’t doing appearances for free.”
“The truth is, I don’t really care if I fight in the UFC or somewhere else,” Huerta says. The fighter says he understands that Zuffa has to keep an eye on the bottom line, but he wants to work, “For a company that is as loyal to me as I am to them.”
Huerta has two fights remaining on his current UFC deal, according to the article. He took a major risk by speaking out because he could be subject to reprisal. In the UFC, often you have to get along in order to go along.
MMAPayout.com also raises a valid point that after Huerta fights Kenny Florian in August, he will have one fight remaining on his current contract and could be subject to the same “Zuffa Freeze-out” experienced by both Andrei Arlovski and Brandon Vera when they had one fight remaining on their contracts.
Let’s see; speaking out against the UFC when you’re about to have one fight left on your existing contract? Wow, sounds like UFC 87 could be the last time we see Huerta fight for awhile. The good news is that he has a backup plan, which is to re-enroll in college and work towards completing a degree in business.