Being an MMA fighter is a tough life financially, and it often doesn’t get much easier once you reach the UFC. For fighters in the promotion’s flyweight division, things get even rougher. You’ve heard the complaints from former 125 pound kingpin Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, and the UFC’s refusal to show him the money probably resulted in us not getting a superfight between Johnson and TJ Dillashaw.
Instead, we got a rematch between Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo, a fight many assumed “Mighty Mouse” would win because, hey, “Mighty Mouse.” But Henry Cejudo is a force to be reckoned with, an Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling who spent the two years since his last loss to Johnson sharpening his skills. He won that fight and took the belt, but here’s the messed up thing: according to his trainer Eric Albarracin, Cejudo was paid almost less than he normally gets for that legendary performance.
”To tell you the truth, Henry did not get a lot of money for this fight,” Albarracin told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “Everybody told him ‘Don’t take the fight.’ No one knows this but Henry had a very low ... almost took a paycut to take this fight.”
”They were like ‘Well, you don’t have to take it, but if you don’t they’re gonna give it to Formiga.’ And then Pettis and Benavidez hadn’t fought yet, so it could have been the winner of that. And then TJ, so that’s three fights, it could be a year and a half, two years. So Henry goes ‘You know what, I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it for the legacy. I’m taking this fight now, I don’t care what the money is.’”
”And he took the fight on a ... he didn’t really like, he didn’t really negotiate anything. Everybody was saying you shouldn’t be taking it for less than this much. He’s probably fought for the lowest salary for a title for a long time. Probably got paid less than Sage Northcutt.”
Just another example of the UFC having its fighters over a barrel, even (or especially) those that are contenders for the belt. You can blame Cejudo for accepting the fight, but was his reasoning all that wrong? It’s not hard to imagine the UFC handing the title shot to the lowest bidder. F**ked up? Sure. But still totally believable.
Now that Cejudo has the belt, will his financial situation improve? We can only hope. Because when it comes to the flyweight division, it looks like the UFC is only willing to pay what they’ll pay, and nobody’s getting a cent above that.