The fight between the top fighters in the UFC and their promotion over pay continues.
Jon Jones has made it clear he’s ready to relinquish his title and walk away from the sport. Former double champ Henry Cejudo has already left. And Conor McGregor made an announcement on Saturday night that he’s done because he’s sick of the UFC ‘going against everything.’ Jorge Masvidal, one half of the biggest fight of 2019, is also in a public battle over pay, and he just took his grievances to ESPN’s Sportcenter to highlight the paltry percentage of revenue that goes to fighters, pegged at 18% based on numbers coming out of an anti-trust lawsuit brought by past fighters against the UFC.
“On this current fight, they’re just not wanting to play ball at all,” Masvidal explained. “They want me to take less money than I did on my last fight and I’m fighting for a world championship. A lot of things just don’t add up and I want these questions answered. I just want what’s fair, and I’m not even asking for 50% because I know they put a lot of work into it. But I’m asking for them to work with my brothers and sisters within the sport because this 18% crap has to go. It can’t be like that no more.”
“It’s not that I’m asking for more money, it’s I’m asking for a bigger revenue share of what we bring in,” he said. “I got a lot of questions and one of them is: NBA, NHL, baseball, they make 50% with the players organizations of what the league brings in. Football I think it’s 47%. UFC is like 18%. So I have these questions like why, to put the cage up cost so much to set up? Why do they take so much? So I have these questions and what better place than to come on [Sportscenter] and answer these questions, you know?”
ESPN is in an interesting position, being broadcast partners with the UFC and the sole purchasing source for pay-per-views in the United States. They present themselves not just as a home for sports but sports news as well, and now the fighters are trying to use that platform to raise awareness of the unfair financial situation the network is in some ways perpetuating.
“If I’m bringing in XYZ dollars, giving me 18% of those dollars that I bring in, it’s not fair man,” Masvidal said. “I’m not even getting a third of what I bring. I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think it’s fair for all fighters, any fighter. I’m speaking for everybody, even the guys I dislike and we’ve had problems, I’m speaking for everybody. As a community of athletes we’re not getting paid as much. And I just have this question: why is it that other sports teams can get 50% and we can’t?”
“One reason is we don’t have a voice for us, speaking for us. Fighters are very individual, they like to do it all on their own. For us it’s an individual sport and we’ve always gone in there by ourselves, for ourselves, and we always bet on ourselves. So when we talk about a union a lot of fighters are like nah, I can get that money on my own. But then you get to the pay-per-view model and it’s not what you think and you find that out after ten years in the sport: ‘Man I’m not getting nowhere near what I thought when I’m champion.’ That’s why you have so many champions complaining. I think it’s the perfect time to voice my opinion, now that I have a little bit of a voice in this space, why not?”
“As I saw [Jones] going through his thing, I was like ‘Funny, my negotiations are reaching a standstill,’ you know?” Masvidal said. “We’re kind of at a stalemate. And it just got worse and worse and they offered this fight to somebody else for a lot less money and that person wouldn’t even take it. So I get shortchanged in a way, you know? It’s cool if somebody else is willing to do it for less money but that puts us, the fighters that don’t want to do it for less money, in a weird situation because it’s not like I can go to another show and stuff like that, because that’s illegal cuz we’re under contract.”
“So they tell you at a certain point in your career like they told Jon Jones and Henry [Cejudo]: retire. You want more money? You’re not getting it. We’re not going to let you go so you gotta retire. And where in America does that happen where you go into a job and you ask for a promotion and they tell you no, you’re not getting it, you’re not getting a raise, and you gotta retire. So I don’t think that’s too cool and I want to say my thoughts on it.”
“I haven’t thought of an exit plan because I want to fight, and I haven’t thought of any other promotion. I’m just hoping the UFC will come to terms, or if not, if they really think I don’t bring value to the company, then let me go and I’ll find out on my own what value I have. I told them about doing a straight pay-per-view deal, they don’t have to pay me anything, let’s take the pay-per-view and play with the numbers a little bit. They threw that number under the table, they didn’t like that at all. We were going to go straight pay-per-view, no base.”
“So it makes me wonder: I can’t do it this way, I can’t do it that, I can only take exactly what you offer and give me, and I’ve done that my whole career and now for once I’m voicing my opinion and they’re not liking it at all. They’re putting their foot down on it. Gotta get fair for once, not just for me but for all my comrades.”
What do you think, Maniacs? Does Masvidal have a point when it comes to the revenue split between fighters and the UFC? And more importantly, does it matter? Will things change for the better or are we about to enter a protracted period where big fights just don’t happen because both sides are unwilling to budge?