Maybe Randy's not so crazy after all.
UFC lightweight contender, Roger Huerta, who is set to battle Kenny Florian at UFC 87: "Seek and Destroy," appears to be joining the steadily growing ranks of disgruntled fighters who feel the UFC has evolved in every aspect except fighter compensation.
Often perceived as the UFC's "Golden Boy," Huerta explains there's no gold for him or many of the other fighters in a new interview with Fight! magazine.
Here's an excerpt:
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."
Most fans and fighters agree there needs to be a more level playing field when it comes to fighter salaries, but as the UFC has shown in the past, it doesn't like to air its laundry in public.
That could mean a bumpy road for Huerta, who has one fight remaining on his contract after UFC 87. Should Huerta defeat Florian, I can certainly imagine a scenario where the UFC asks BJ Penn to put his plans for vacating the lightweight title on hold in order to "take care of" Huerta.
See Lyoto Machida vs. Tito Ortiz.
That's assuming, of course, that the UFC lets him fight at all. I seem to remember another high profile fighter, Andrei Arlovski, with one fight left on his contract who ended up being buried on the undercard against Jake O'Brien at UFC 82 after nearly a year of inactivity.
Time off doesn't appear to bother Huerta, however, who has stated on several occasions his goals and interests outside of mixed martial arts. If one of those interests involves traveling, I know of a place overseas that's gearing up for it's second lightweight grand prix.
But like they say, the bento box is always greener on the other side.
Thanks to 'Five Ounces of Pain' for the assist.