UFC president Dana White says fighter pay in the organization won’t change dramatically while he’s in his current position, telling GQ in video released Thursday that he believes that fighters “are paid what they are supposed to be paid.”
The topic of fighter pay has been a hot button issue in MMA for years and has been pushed more into the spotlight by YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul in recent months. White said he believes high-profile boxers are overpaid and reiterated in the GQ interview that he believes UFC fighters are paid more reasonably.
“Boxing has been absolutely destroyed, because of money and all the things that are going on,” White said. “It’s never going to happen while I’m here. Believe me, these guys get paid what they’re supposed to get paid. They eat what they kill. They get a percentage of the pay-per-view buys. And the money is spread among all the fighters. “
UFC pays fighters about 20% of their earnings, according to data unearthed during the ongoing antitrust lawsuit brought by some former fighters against the promotion. Other major sports leagues, such as the NFL, NBA and MLB, share about half of their revenue with players, but those leagues are unionized and athletes can collectively bargain through players’ associations. MMA fighters, and UFC fighters specifically, don’t have anything like that these days.
“Boxing has been absolutely destroyed, because of money and all the things that are going on. It will never happen as long as I’m here. Believe me, these guys get paid what they’re supposed to be paid. They eat what they kill. They get a percentage of the pay-per-view buys. And the money is split between all the fighters.”
Dana White, on pay raises in UFC
UFC fighters are classified as independent contractors, which could make collective bargaining legally difficult. Several attempts to unionize UFC fighters have failed in the past 10 years, including one by former baseball agent Jeff Borris.
“There aren’t too many things you can talk about in the UFC,” White told GQ. “If you look at what we’ve done with the business the last 22 years, it’s unbelievable. There’s never been done, ever, the things that we’ve done in the fight business. You’ve always got to have something to be upset about, I guess. . And fighters always want to make more money.”
White and executives from UFC parent company Endeavor argued that fighter pay has increased exponentially over the past decade, even though UFC revenue has also grown strongly since then.
“No major sports organization pays their athletes as poorly as Dana White & UFC,” Paul tweeted in response to White’s GQ comments. “If you don’t see that, then you’re one of Dana’s sheep. They keep talking about selling out 21 events in a row but never talk about raising fight pay, giving them health care and fair revenue sharing.”
The antitrust lawsuit filed against UFC in 2014 by former fighters, including Cung Le, alleges that the promotion is a monopoly or monopsony, controlling the vast majority of the sport’s market share, locking out fighters by introducing restrictive contracts that do not allow them to test. their value on the free market and suppressing wages.
The lawsuit is being led by fighters from the MMA Fighters Association, which does not want unionization. Instead, the MMAFA would like the Muhammad Ali Act of boxing, which gives contract protection to boxers, to be extended to MMA. That extension to MMA was introduced as a bill to the House of Representatives by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., in 2017 but has since been stuck in legislative limbo. The UFC has spent hundreds of thousands lobbying against the potential law.
In 2020, a federal judge said he would grant class certification in the antitrust case, making it a class action that would allow a larger number of combatants to be paid a share of what could be billions in damages. The judge, Richard Boulware, did not make class certification official, and the case looks set to drag on for many more years.
“The UFC has established a salary structure that pays fighters less than 20% of earnings,” MMAFA founder Rob Maysey told ESPN. “The only way to determine what fighters are ‘allegedly paid’ is to remove the contractual limits that the UFC imposes and bring true competition for fight services to the market.”