Miletich: Until places pay as well or better than UFC, fighters have no options and zero control

Esther Lin for Sho Sports

When Strikeforce was acquired by UFC, it put all the world's top fighters -- like Nick Diaz, Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett, among others -- all under one roof. It also put them all under one pay structure.

Pat Miletich misses Strikeforce.

So too, do a lot of mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, now that the San Jose-based combat sports promotion has been gobbled up by ZUFFA, parent company of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The same organization that acquired PRIDE FC and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).

Good for the sport? Maybe, maybe not.

While it was nice to have most of the world's best fighters all competing under one roof, it became disadvantageous to the talent, as all their eggs are now in one basket. The concept of "negotiating" fair compensation is a fantasy when one person hold all the cards.

Miletich, the inaugural UFC Welterweight Champion, explains (via MMA Fighting):

"It bothered me, because more than anything else, (the thing that helps) the growth of the sport and the development is athletes having the ability to truly have organizations bid on their talent and make more money for themselves. That's where the competition is important. It's healthy, and until that comes back, some sort of organization that could put something together like that, that was a loss for the sport and the athletes, and for the fans, quite frankly. There are a lot of places where guys can get their start. I think there's a lot of places where guys can gain experience and get their name known out there, to a certain extent, to make themselves marketable to then go on to the UFC. But until you have a place that can pay you as well or better than the existing king of the hill, then it's a pyramid and there's no options. There's no options for the athletes. The only reason I say this now is, having been an athlete, having been from the bottom of the ladder to the top, when there are no options, things tend to -- athletes have zero control. And the athletes definitely need control. If I'm in the NFL, I have a lot of control because there are several teams, people are going to bid for my services. And that does not exist in this sport."

There's always Bellator, which has provided refuge to Quinton Jackson, Tito Ortiz and Cheick Kongo, among others.

The problem with the Viacom-owned promotion, however, is that some fighters view it as the industry's roach motel. Fighters check in, but they don't check out. Just ask UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman, who narrowly escaped what he likens to a Spike TV prison sentence.

Perhaps there's more to it than just money.

ZUFFA has been accused of running a monopoly in the past -- even by its former fighters -- but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found no wrongdoing during its 2012 investigation. After all, there are still plenty of places to compete outside the Octagon, including Maximum Fighting Championship (MFC), ONE FC, BAMMA and Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA), among others.

And it only takes two things to compete with UFC: Balls, brains and a big-ass bank account.

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