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Nevada Culinary Workers Union attacks UFC for paying women less than men, calls for equality

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

UFC superstar Ronda Rousey recently cracked Forbes' 'World's Highest-Paid Female Athletes 2015' Top 10 list, but that hasn't stopped some critics from calling out the "disparity" between male and female fighter pay.

The Nevada Culinary Workers Union Local 226, long-time nemesis of UFC, has started a website called fightersagenda.org which seems to be dedicated solely to slamming the mixed martial arts (MMA) organization and its practices.

In its newest piece, the union alleges gender discrimination by pointing out that after removing Rousey from the pay equation, women are making only 41 percent what their male colleagues make for what amounts to the same job:

We looked at the publicly available information on all UFC events in Las Vegas going back to November 16, 2012, when the women's division was created, until January 3, 2015. In the 18 events during this time period, the average salary per fight for women was $37,476, while the average salary for men was $61,691.

The disparity between men and women's pay in the UFC only grows when UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is taken out of the pool of female fighters. Rousey averaged over $190,000 in per fight salary. Without her, the average salary for women in the UFC is just $25,487.

The Union goes on to point out that the recent Reebok sponsorship deal will be based on the number of fights with the promotion, and that male fighters, who have been fighting for longer, will have a significant advantage here.

But MMA analyst Paul Gift recently crunched the numbers and says the statistics actually tell a very different story. The first women's UFC bout didn't take place until Feb. 23, 2013 at UFC 157, although the Union looked at numbers predating that historic bout between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche.

As well, Gift's analysis of the data set spanning 18 Nevada events and nine from other states for a total of 27 events containing 568 male fighter-bouts and 52 female fighter-bouts, shows that the gender disparity may have more to do with overall MMA experience and not necessarily UFC experience:

Does anything stand out to you? Anything at all? Yes, 52% of female fighter-bouts during the sample period have been promotional debuts. 77% of the time a female has entered the UFC Octagon, she's had four total fights or fewer. By contrast, 77% of the time a male has entered the UFC Octagon, he's had 13 total fights or fewer.

A quick Google search of top earning male and female fighters does seem to show a gigantic pay gap between the sexes:

Top 10 Earning Female Fighters

1 Cat Zingano $ 400,000
2 Ronda Rousey $ 280,000
3 Cristiane ‘Cyborg' Justiane (Invicta featherweight) $ 200,000
4 Miesha Tate $ 160,000
5 Carla Esparza* $ 108,000
6 Rose Namajunas $ 100,000
6 Sara McMann $ 100,000
6 Holly Holm $ 100,000
6 Joanna Jedrzejczyk* $ 100,000
10 Alexis Davis $ 96,000

Top 10 Earning Male Fighters

1 Michael Bisping* UFC $ 870,000
2 Anderson Silva UFC $ 800,000
2 Conor McGregor UFC $ 800,000
4 Chad Mendes UFC $ 676,000
5 Anthony ‘Rumble' Johnson* UFC $ 656,000
6 Chris Weidman UFC $ 550,000
6 Jon Jones UFC $ 550,000
8 Frank Mir* UFC $ 520,000
9 Nick Diaz UFC $ 500,000
10 Donald Cerrone UFC $ 438,000

It should be noted that these are payouts to the fighters as reported to local state athletic commissions and does not include sponsor money and also does not include the UFC's traditional "fight night" bonuses.

On one hand there certainly seems to be a large gap in pay, but Paul Gift makes an excellent point that women's MMA appears to be less experienced with fewer fighters compiling a list of opponents, inside or outside of UFC. It's also interesting to note that the face of women's MMA, Ronda Rousey, has only 12 professional fights. As a point of reference, former Bellator fighter Lyman Good, who took home $20,000 ($10,000 win bonus) at UFC Fight Night 71 in San Diego, has 22 professional fights dating back to 2005.

On the same card, Sarah Moras, who has six professional fights, competed under the same contract terms by earning $10,000 ($10,000 more if she had won).

What do you think? Is the Nevada Culinary Workers Union making much ado about nothing? Or do they have a legitimate beef about fighter pay for women?