twitter google

UFC fighters come out on the record to discuss pay issue

While ESPN and UFC Executives have been going back and forth over the past week relating to an Outside the Lines feature from the sports’ network focused on fighter-pay in the UFC, some of the voices lost in the debate belong to the men who actually lay it all on the line inside the Octagon. While ESPN’s story featured input from Ken Shamrock and Ricco Rodriguez, neither man has fought under the Zuffa banner for more than five years and are not necessarily as in tune with the way things work in 2012 when compared to those currently calling the UFC home.

On that note, the UFC has released a video addressing ESPN’s claims with input from former champions Chuck Liddell, Matt Serra, and Forrest Griffin who defended their employers’. Liddell retired in 2010 after a storied career in the infamous eight-sided cage while Griffin and Serra are still on the organization’s roster.

“These guys that are just starting off in the UFC and they’re starting off with whatever number they’re starting off with, they have a good night and the next thing you know they’re getting a sick pay day,” said Serra. “And that opportunity is for a guy that’s been with them, like myself, for ten years or a guy that’s green and it’s his first time in there.”

As far as Griffin’s take, the original Ultimate Fighter winner explained, “The UFC has guys that technically they lose money on; that they’re paying $10-$15,000 to fight that nobody’s really watching. Nobody bought the PPV to see that guy, maybe like 300 people in his hometown if he’s lucky. But they’re paying that guy to get better, to keep fighting, because maybe he’ll catch on and be that next thing.”

“They’re putting an investment in all their guys, all of us. The UFC wants you to succeed,” he continued. “The more any fighter succeeds, they succeed. I mean even guys that aren’t making a fortune are making enough to where they don’t have another job and they can concentrate on getting better as a fighter so they can put themselves in a position to make good money.”

Check out the fighters’ version of things below in addition to more behind-the-scenes footage from Lorenzo Fertitta’s interview with ESPN:

21 COMMENTS
  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    I wonder what Ronald McDonald thinks of McDonalds pay rate?
    The whole point is Monopoly. If the UFC says we will give you $20 to fight and you have no other option type deal. Also fighters cant speak out against the UFC. If you do, you get screwed. Hendo, Arlovski, Couture and Sylvia all had pay diaputes and left. What happens when you cant leave?

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Lord Faust says:

    So, basically, what’s fine for the NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA is not fine for the UFC?

    The UFC is the only fight promoter that seems to know how to run a positive balance on the books. Monopoly or no, I don’t care.

    There are options; you can fight overseas with no commission oversight, no testing, Hell you might not even get paid.

    The UFC has a “monopoly” because no else has a decent product, or marketable fighters, or both. Bellator is the only promotion thus far that seems to have a compelling, regular TV product.

    IFL, EliteXC, Affliction, Bodog, etc. They all paid good money, and now they’re bankrupt.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Angry Mike says:

    Lorenzo by ko. His point about fighter pay on ESPN fights had the interviewer backing up and looking foolish. His statement about a fighter’s right to audit the numbers was also excellent. A debate, a negotiation or an argument is somewhat similar to a fight. Plan, prepare and then attack.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • MCM says:

    “So, basically, what’s fine for the NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA is not fine for the UFC?” Lord Faust.

    I made the exact same point on another site and was shot down by all the UFC haters. Difference is, most of those are government sanctioned monopolies, where as the UFC is in now way shape or form a monopoly.
    In the U.S. alone there are dozens of MMA orgs, and more are popping up each year. That doesn’t even mention the orgs in Canada, Europe, Japan, Brazil, AUS, etc.
    Yes, the UFC buys out some orgs. But others go out of business on their own or stay in business and have nothing to do with the UFC. I think MMALogic was on to something comparing they to McDonalds. McDonalds doesn’t own the rights to Burgers and Fries, they just did it better than everyone else.

    As for fighter pay? Edson Barboza just made $134k in bonus pay. Name one other fight org on the planet that is willing and capable of parting with their own, uncontracted money like that. And that opportunity exists for every fighter on the card.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Sykotick says:

    Anyone else find it funny that the reporter looked totally uncomfortable when Lorenzo brought up the WTF boxing numbers for the show that took place on espn? A show put on by a boxing promoter that’s obviously paying ESPN to air the fights. And this “report” on anti UFC crap happens after Dana guaranteed MMA would be legal in New York. Coincidence??

    Wonder what Colonel Sanders thinks of KFC pay, or papa john himself?? Good lord logic, you might be on to something!!! O.o

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    In those comps NFL etc you get bid on by clubs etc in the UFC there is 1 club so the comparrison is worth less than Geek goverment bonds. It is worthless, completely. As far as ESPN paying $5 per fight, well last I checked boxing isnt a monopoloy. Please use your heads. The UFC gets 3 company men and good friends of Dana White to say pay is fantastic and those that want to hear that say “see”. Tell me, what happens if you dont tow the company line in the UFC? Ask Arlovski, Hendo, Fitch etc. Come on, nobody in the UFC is going to speak up cuz if they did what would happen? THINK!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    Oh and why are monopolies banned in a lot of areas? There are many reasons but setting price, pay rate and quality of product to whatever level they want are some of them. I really cant stand the fact that you guys support the UFC no matter what. I swear if the UFC spat in your face you would thank them saying “what, you are telling me the UFC cant do that? Some people will spit in your face AND kick you in the nuts so the UFC spitting in my face is fine”. But just go on and call this UFC bashing.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    So if the UFC becomes a monopoly and offers a pro fighter $2000 a fight for 3 fights a year and that fighter has no option but to accept or not participate (UNLIKE BOXING or NFL or NBA etc) you guys think that is fair? Stop jumping on even the slightest opportunity to side with the UFC cuz all of the reasons for it so far have been invalid and wrong. The UFC is not team based and is not made up of idividual companies that pay wages like NFL, NBA or Premier League football so dont bother going there and boxing is sooooo not a monopoly it is mind numbing that you would even bother going there. Some boxers make dozens of millions per fight and some make $2 but that is not up to a single company. If Pac Man gets offered $4 he can say no and go to another promoter but if the UFC becomes a monopoly and offers you $3 you either take it or you dont fight. It isnt that way yet but if it does become a monopoly it could. As it is a fighters career in the big time rests with the favor of 1 man.and if you piss him off you are screwed. So maybe you can understand why more fighters dont complain.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    Just to finish off. MCM in those “government sanctioned monopolies” if back in the day Jordan got offered $1million a year to play for the Bulls, what would have happened? He would have gone to another team. Now tell me, if Jon Jones gets offered $1 million per year for ZUFFA what would happen? There is no other org that could support him in the USA and he is in a contract that does not allow him to leave even if he wanted to. Are you guys starting to get it? If Dream fails and Bellator doesnt grow ten fold in the next year there is 1 option for the sports elite. It locks down all of the comp and is the only 1 who can support big names. This is not the case in any other sport I know.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Lord Faust says:

    You don’t really understand what a monopoly is. I mean, yeah, you get the concept, but the UFC isn’t one. Maybe in the distant future, but not now.

    You seem to think businesses have some sort of moral obligation. They do not.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • locoRover says:

    And just to point out to everyone… This video was put out to make a point on how they could use editing to “spin” a piece. Look at the full 47 minute or so interview if u want to see everything.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • MCM says:

    Everyone is missing the real story. Did you see the video of Lorenzo next to Newton? Now look at him today. Can you say Horse Meat! No one puts on that much muscle at his age naturally. Lorenzo is on steroids!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • MCM says:

    sorry ya’ll. This article is about fighter pay and we’re typing about fast food and the NFL and monopolies and everything else but the article.

    Fact is, the UFC pays it’s fighters incredibly well for an MMA organization. We can’t compare it to any other sport cause that’s apples to oranges. People choose to be MMA fighters. Most fighters will never make the millions of dollars that the top guys in the UFC make, and they still chase that dream.

    Wanna know the real story from someone that isn’t a “personal friend” of Dana or a UFC company man?
    http://www.mmatorch.com/artman2/publish/UFC_2/article_12179.shtml

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Dufresne says:

    Lets not all forget the locker room bonuses, signing bonuses, and other pay that doesn’t get reported to the commission. People are acting like the UFC is some giant crushing small town heroes to inflate their bottom line, but if the pay was really that terrible why would fighters flock to it? Why are better and better athletes turning to MMA instead of basketball, football, soccer, and baseball? Just because the commission reports that a guy makes X amount doesn’t mean they’re coming close to revealing the full payout. For example: Alistair Overeem was reported to have made $386k for his win over Lesnar. But when you factor in his other bonuses, before endorsements, he actually pulled close to $1.7 million. Sure, he’s far from the norm, but that just shows how little the reported amount actually matters.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • locoRover says:

    Exactly. Read something with Mir after his FIRST lesnar fight. Made a million dollars with his locker room bonus.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Screenplaya says:

    Man, there are a lot of morons on here complaining about what could happen if the UFC became a monopoly. So what? Right now, they are not guilty of underpaying fighters. That is what they are accused of, and it is patently untrue.

    IT isn’t a perfect organization, but they are not in any way guilty of what they are being accused. Boxers can be paid far more, but that is a broken system that the UFC had better not try to emulate.

    All the comparisons to the team sports are illegitimate, I admit.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Richard Stabone says:

    I think the UFC takes care of its fighters pretty well, especially in the context of MMA and its relatively brief history. But I do they think have plenty of room for improvement.

    The big difference between the UFC and other major pro sports is the absence of a players’ union and CBA (in the UFC). I get the pay-for-performance aspect of MMA, and I like that the bonuses are a strong motivator for fighters to push themselves. But given the tremendous growth in popularity of the UFC, and the immense revenue that has followed, I just don’t think there’s any reason a fighter on a UFC card should be paid a few thousand dollars. It’s absurd.

    In other words, I don’t think fighter salaries have kept pace with Zuffa/UFC revenue. Sure the guys at the top of the food chain are making huge $$, but that shouldn’t gloss over the putrid salaries at the bottom of the heap. In MLB, for instance, the minimum salary that the scrub backup catcher earns is just under half a million dollars annually. There’s plenty of room for disparity between the bottom salaries and then those earned by the top dogs who really draw interest to the sport, but there should be a reasonable floor. Which is where a union will eventually help once in place.

    And I get that Zuffa is using a lot of that revenue to invest in the sport… marketing, globalization, etc. Which ultimately should benefit the fighters. But at the same time, there is the here & now and the fighters that are still essentially paving the way as the UFC tries to further bust into the mainstream.

    Anyway, like with most anything I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle when it comes to this topic & debate.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Dufresne says:

    In MLB, for instance, the minimum salary that the scrub backup catcher earns is just under half a million dollars annually.

    In Major League Baseball the minimum salary is just over $400k, but don’t forget about their farm leagues. They are part of the same company and yet no one is complaining about the pay scale down in A, AA, or AAA ball, and those can be as low as $1,000 per month.

    Have the individual salaries increased in proportion to the revenues of Zuffa? No, but I would wager that the overall pay has. They’re no longer dealing with a few dozen fighters across a few weight classes. They’ve got dozens of guys in one weight class and they’ve added 2 new weight classes in the last couple years with the plans to open another one in the very near future.

    And another thing we shouldn’t forget is that the fighters aren’t the only people the UFC has to pay. They’ve got thousands of employees just to keep the day to day operations going, not to mention the bank of lawyers they have to employee to deal with contracts and the other bank of lawyers they have to help push for MMA legalization. They’re not some piddly little mom and pop organization, they’ve got hundreds of millions in expenses.

    Could pay be higher? Yes. But overall I think they’re doing a better job of compensating than just about any other corporation out there.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Lord Faust says:

    Richard, if you listened to Lorenzo’s commentary he states that the UFC’s payouts have increased at a greater rate than the UFC’s revenue.

    Until we can see their books (which means you’d need a contract with them, to exercise the audit rights), it’s all hearsay.

    Look, is their room to pay fighters more? Absolutely. No one ever gets paid enough. (Want proof, there are CEO’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars who still try and get as much as they can whenever they take on a new job.)

    A fighter’s union will never happen; selfishness will override the altruism.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Angry Mike says:

    What? Did you seriously equate labor unions with altruism? I was a union member for several years, and there was nothing altruistic about them. Try talking to your shop steward about right to work laws or opting out of the portion of your dues the union uses for lobbying. You’ll get a response alright, but it won’t have anything to do with altruism.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Richard Stabone says:

    In Major League Baseball the minimum salary is just over $400k, but don’t forget about their farm leagues. They are part of the same company and yet no one is complaining about the pay scale down in A, AA, or AAA ball, and those can be as low as $1,000 per month.

    The MLB minimum salary is up to $480K. And for all intents & purposes the minor leagues (i.e. MiLB) is a completely separate entity from the bigs. There are plenty of other lesser fight promotions guys come up thru (i.e. the minors), where I can understand the tiny paychecks. But when a guy is fighting on a UFC card he’s reached the bigs as far as I’m concerned.

    Have the individual salaries increased in proportion to the revenues of Zuffa? No, but I would wager that the overall pay has.

    That’s probably a fair point. I guess my main response/complaint is that while the overall pie might be increasing at a reasonable rate, it’s not being dished out very fairly. But I certainly understand that part is very subjective…. obviously the big names are the ones really driving the UFC machine and should be compensated accordingly, but the other guys filling out the overall UFC roster are also a critical piece of the foundation. Just like the scrubs in other pro sports that no one buys a ticket or flips on the TV to watch, but are still handsomely compensated for their role in the overall league, and share in its success.

    This is where I think the UFC has the most room for improvement. And offering a carrot at the end of the stick, in the form of various bonuses, is nice but that alone is not going to cut it. I can’t pretend to understand the total picture of Zuffa/UFC finances, but I think it’s fair to say that, given where the UFC is now at, no fighter on a UFC card should be paid less than, say, $10K for a fight. Probably higher than that.

    In any pro sport there’s going to be disagreement about how much of the credit (monetarily speaking) should go to the owners who run the show vs. the athletes who provide the real product/entertainment that put the butts in seats/drive TV ratings. That’s why there’s a labor dispute seemingly every other year in one of the major pro sports. And I don’t know why the UFC would be any different. I’m sure Zuffa feels they’re completely justified in keeping the amount of profit/margin they currently do. After all, they built it from almost nothing off of their own $$ and tireless efforts. I imagine Fertitta, Dana and the rest of the Zuffa brass also feel they’re doing the best thing for the sport of MMA by investing huge $$ into the marketing of the sport, in order to further grow it which ultimately helps the fighters, rather than pouring more of that into fighter paychecks today. In the long run I would agree with that, and I can’t argue with the business model and rest of the approach these guys have taken to get the UFC to where it is today. I just think along the way the guys at the bottom of the totem pole right now are getting shafted a bit. And I hope it changes sooner rather than later.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

LEAVE A COMMENT!

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Follow 5OZ