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Midnight Mania! Oluwale Bamgbose announces he has left UFC, curses Dana White

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Winnipeg-Di Chirico vs Bamgbose Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Midnight Mania!

Despite having a name that frustrates me (why is there an “M” before the g?? Why isn’t it an “N”? How do I pronounce that??) Oluwale Bamgbose has become a fighter I greatly appreciate. Anyone who reads this column regularly should know that the UFC paying their fighters shit wages is one of the issues I’m most angered by, most frequently.

In a sense, the UFC is a perfect embodiment of our current system of third wave capitalism: a huge monopolistic corporation, in heavy debt due to being bought out by private equity with no care for the long-term health of the sport. Their previous owners didn’t care either, because they knew they were getting out. Everything else is a symptom of this short-term vision: shrinking audience, skeletal staff at UFC HQ, the devaluing of title belts through endless interim title fights, champions sensing this and begging for “superfights”, money fights, and boxing matches; over-reliance on the lucky emergence of a couple superstars who masked the overall trends, the destructive Reebok deal, and the loss of long-term fans. These fans sense the soul of the sport they came to love has long since died, and it’s remnants are being sucked out piecemeal, for as many dollars as the absentee owners can wring.

Chief among these ills is the long-standing issue of fighter pay: professional athletes are independent contractors who are doled out the very least the UFC can afford, somewhere in the region of 15% of gross revenue. For comparison, sports with unions, like basketball and football, see their athletes get paid 50% of gross revenue to take their long-term brain damage. There is no collective bargaining. The UFC takes advantage of the fact that fighters, like many of us in our respective lives, are often insanely over-optimistic about their chances of making it to the coveted belt. Of the hundreds on the roster, only a few will ever even fight for a belt, much less win one.

There is a silver lining. When I spoke to Jon Fitch about the ongoing anti-trust lawsuit against the UFC, he said a potential payout would benefit all fighters who have fought for the UFC since 2012. The Muhammad Ali Expansion Act is gaining more cosponsors by the year, which could very well result in legal challenges to the UFC’s system. The very fact that the UFC was sold for over 4.2 billion dollars, yet the fighters remain mired in 10K/show 10K/win contracts has opened a lot of eyes. Bellator is a distant second to the UFC in terms of market share, but some fighters have successfully moved there to make a living; or, in Ben Askren’s case, to ONE FC. Local organizations like Cage Warriors and Rizin are not the big show, but for some athletes they are a viable way to get paid.

But back to Bamgbose. He is fed up with the way the UFC treated him, and gave the middle finger to his boss on the way out the door. To be clear, he was cut, but he is evidently happy to go. He fought injured in his last fight and turned in a poor performance, which led to a lot of fan criticism. That’s another constant feature of the modern world: because many of us aren’t able to live the lives we wish, we respond by allying with the billionaire owners of capital instead of the exploited underdog. By pretending we are the real owners, we live our aspirations vicariously online through our partisanship. We are like Dana White, bosses in our own right, never mind that most of us will never set foot on a private yacht or jet, much less own four of them. This is enhanced by the idiosyncratic exposure MMA fighters have to us, the fans: they get a LOT of personal hate online for any poor performance, from people they would destroy on the street. (Don’t get me wrong, I criticize fighters plenty. That’s my prerogative as a fan. I just never tag them in my tweets. They don’t, and shouldn’t, care what I think.)

Bamgbose laid out the long-term issues with low fighter pay: It erodes the fighters’ ability and desire to compete when they aren’t meeting basic needs. Paying fighters pauper wages inconsistent with their standing as professional athletes is fundamentally a strategy to enhance short-term profit, not long-term growth.

And to the endless stream of fans who had something negative to say:

Other fighters responded with hope and solidarity:

Gerald Harris echoed Bamgbose’s thoughts:

Poll

Does fighter pay matter to you?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Yes, it’s an important issue
    (919 votes)
  • 4%
    No, they get paid a lot
    (48 votes)
  • 12%
    I don’t really care either way
    (137 votes)
1104 votes total Vote Now

Insomnia

This is an important thing we missed...

Image credit: Jason Nawara

A post shared by As Shopped As It Gets (@as_shopped_as_it_gets_) on

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