Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) appears to be at odds with some of its top stars when it comes to fighter payouts, which is why light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, as well as welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal, have taken themselves out of the equation for the foreseeable future.
“Bones” asked for a significant pay increase to battle heavyweight bruiser Francis Ngannou, while “Gamebred” demanded a bigger percentage of company profits. Longtime color commentator Joe Rogan was quick to agree that fighters are deserving of more money, but also believes that UFC may not have the resources to honor those requests.
“Right now in particular, there is probably less money because there is no live gate, and that’s an extreme amount of money,” Rogan said (via MMA Fighting). “But there’s also fighters that agree to certain deals. They agree to like, an 8-fight deal at X amount per fight, and then they become more popular and then they want to renegotiate their deal, and the UFC is like, ‘Look, we’re just trying to stay open. We’re not going to renegotiate anything. You can take it or you can leave it, but this is what it is.’ I think it’s a matter of that.”
One of the reasons UFC President Dana White has been hesitant to bring back former two-division champion Conor McGregor is because the promotion would have to sacrifice upwards of $18 million in gate revenue. With coronavirus restrictions still in place, combat sports events are not permitted to be staged with fans in attendance.
“It’s not a monopoly in that you do have choices, but there’s one clear, top of the food chain choice. But it’s because they do it the best,” Rogan said. “They’re also the only ones that are having fights during this quarantine. The only people that are putting on any live sporting events, but they’re also part of a company in WME that’s hurting, really, really bad. So there’s not a lot of money to throw around. To keep the doors open, to keep people employed, a lot of money is missing. All these shows got cancelled, there’s all these audience members that aren’t gonna be there, that aren’t buying tickets, so it’s tricky. So this is why I think they’re complaining about fighter pay.”
Or maybe they’re complaining because of this.
WME tried to go public late last year but the stock market gave Ari Emanuel and Co. a lukewarm reception. Then came the global shutdown in the wake of COVID-19 and the entertainment conglomerate found itself without its usual revenue streams, hastening the return of UFC to ESPN airwaves.
In short, don’t expect to see any record-breaking paydays in 2020.