In interview with GQ last weekUFC president Dana White has remained adamant that fighters under his promotional banner will continue to earn what they earn as long as he runs the show.
“It’s never going to happen as long as I’m here, believe me. These guys are getting paid what they’re supposed to be getting paid,” White responded when asked why the topic of fight pay continues to be brought up. “They eat what they kill. They get a percentage of the pay-per-view buys and the money is spread among all the fighters.”
White then offered a “simple solution” to those who don’t believe fighters are being paid enough: “Go run your own MMA organization.”
UFC #14-ranked Shane Burgos seems to have found an even better solution. On Monday, Burgos told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani on “The MMA Hour” that he would be leaving the UFC to join the PFL.
In his last fight, Burgos improved his record to 15-3 after earning a majority decision over Charles Jourdain at UFC Long Island on July 16.
“That was the last fight of my deal,” Burgos said. “I said after the fight that I wanted to test free agency, test the waters. I know what I’m worth. I wanted to see what everyone else thought I was worth. So I got out there, I tested the free agency market and I’m happy to announce that I’m signing with the PFL.
“It was not an easy decision. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I have two daughters, I have to go home, I have to look them in the face and be like, ‘It was worth it when all is said and done in this sport.’ With this deal I feel that will ensure that. Not taking anything away from my UFC career … the UFC gave me the platform to be able to be in this position now and secure the deal I just secured with the PFL.”
Although Burgos admitted it wasn’t an easy choice to leave the biggest MMA promotion in the world, he said financially it was a “no-brainer” after talking to his family about the significant raise the PFL is offering.
So has Burgos — at 31 and won four $50,000 Fight of the Night bonuses since 2017 — been sufficiently compensated for his skill and status? As for White and the UFC, the answer is yes. To them, fighters like Burgos are a dime a dozen and White, to his credit, has built the company into a multi-billion dollar powerhouse that up-and-comers dream of fighting for. But for Burgos and his family, the PFL deal was considerably better.
However, the question remains, why is the UFC keeping Burgos, who is just entering his prime and delivering packed fights every time he steps into the cage? Sure he’s 2-2 in his last four fights, but letting him go after building him into a Top 15-ranked featherweight waters down the division and opens the door for others to follow his path.
It is still debated whether UFC fighters are paid according to their stature and ability. But if you take into account the income split of professional athletes in the Big 3 of American sports – which is about 50 percent for MLB, NBA and NFL players – then the A 20 percent revenue share UFC fighters reportedly earn is a steep drop. That’s especially true when you consider that the UFC’s independent contractors are literally putting their lives and well-being on the line and don’t even receive benefits like long-term health care or pensions.
Hopefully, Burgos’ decision is an eye-opener for the UFC as it continues to expand as rival organizations compete for fans and fighters.
Unfortunately, it appears that White’s stance on fighting pay is set in stone.