Dana White and the UFC respond to ESPN's report about fighter pay
If you have 47 minutes to spare and want to watch the full interview with Lorenzo Fertitta, you can see that here.
The general theme: ESPN is claiming that fighters make pitiful salaries, that the UFC is taking way more than their fair share, and that the athletes are expected to lay their bodies on the line for mere pocket change.
The UFC is responding by saying that they've made 39 millionaires, and that fighter salaries have increased at twice the rate of UFC revenue growth since 2005.
In all reality, both sides have valid points. When ESPN claims that some fighters get paid extremely low salaries for fights, they're 100% correct... kind of. One example they showed was that some fighters made only $6,000 in a fight.
Here's Sean Pierson, the guy who only made $6,000 for losing to Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 141. He's the one in the white shorts, getting kicked in the face.
While it certainly is unfortunate that he only got $6,000 to get beat up for 15 minutes, that still doesn't sound like the worst deal in the world. Also, keep in mind the sponsorship money. I count 4 logos on Pierson's shorts. That means there are 4 companies out there who are paying money to help feed, clothe and house Pierson. I don't know how much each of them are paying him, but that $6,000 isn't his only source of income.
Most fighters work as trainers between fights, and some have opened up their own very successful training centers. Some of them make millions of dollars
Fertitta pointed out that in some ESPN boxing cards, some fighters are paid only $275 for a match. He also pointed out that ESPN makes around $2.8 billion per year.
That's just as skewed as ESPN's math, though, since a vast majority of ESPN's money comes from sports other than boxing, and much of their payroll is dedicated to other sports or organizations as well.
In the above video response, most of the fighters shown in the video are former UFC champions, and they're all saying that they get paid very well. Again, this is a skewed perspective. Of course the top-tier fighters are going to make better money than guys like Pierson and his $6,000 per fight.
What this looks like to me is a blatant attempt from ESPN to have a sensational story about a sport they clearly don't support as much as other sports. MMA coverage on ESPN is pathetic, as Dana White pointed out in the video response.
At the same time, me thinks the UFC doth protest too much. While trying to justify their pay system, they went a bit too far in the opposite direction, and it's pretty transparent. By showing only high-profile fighters, they're not really helping to assuage the claim that the lower-tier fighters make extremely little money.
One more thing to keep in mind is that none of these guys are going to get paid more if they go anywhere else. Perhaps it's because the UFC has a monopoly right now, but the fact is that there are very few small, local promoters who could even pay fighters a salary comparable to the lower end of UFC fighters.
After both sides told their story, I'm still not sure we know any more than we did before. There are some guys who are making a ton of dough fighting in the UFC. There are others who will end up with one fight and one paycheck for less than $10,000 and they'll never be seen again.
Is it fair? I guess it is... until someone comes out and offers to pay them more.