Money has been the center of all of the drama unfolding within the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ranks. Jon Jones continues his Twitter assault on the promotion, slamming UFC for “ripping him off” in his younger days, while Jorge Masvidal asked for his release since the Endeavor-owned company doesn’t seem to value him.
After Henry Cejudo retired following his win at UFC 249, many claimed he did so because he couldn’t convince the promotion to give him a raise. And while “Triple C” has yet to come out and say that, he did express his concerns over lack of pay in the past.
Most recently, Sean O’Malley — who is just four fights deep into his UFC career — also chimed in on UFC’s pay structure.
In the center of it all is UFC President, Dana White, the mouthpiece for the promotion who is responsible for keeping everyone happy ... even the biggest star of them all. During a recent sit-down on ESPN’s “First Take,” White got into a heated debate with sports reporter and former NFL cornerback Dominique Foxworth about the latest issues with fighter pay.
“Jon Jones just signed a new deal less than a year ago. He’s got eight fights left on his deal. What do you want me to tell you? The guy’s got a deal,” White said (via MMA Fighting) regarding Jones’ request for “Deontay WIlder money” to fight Francis Ngannou.
“Same thing with Masvidal — Masvidal just signed a new deal seven months ago. These guys both got brand new deals that they were more than happy to sign less than a year ago.”
White went on to tell Foxworth — who was the president of the NFL Players Association in 2012 and graduated from Harvard Business School — that both men would have better cases for their arguments if the ink had at least dried on their new contracts.
“Does anybody feel like they make too much money?” White said. “Nobody does. If we were talking about a thing where these guys had old contracts from three years ago and it’s like ‘that was three years ago that I did this deal, let’s [renegotiate].’ They signed these less than a year ago. This was months ago.”
In response, Foxworth says that while that may be true, it doesn’t mean that both Jones and Masvidal — who are managed by First Round Management — have fair contracts.
“Saying that they just signed contracts doesn’t speak to the leverage that they have in negotiations,” Foxworth said. “Just because they signed contracts doesn’t necessarily mean the contracts are fair.
“I’m not informed enough to know whether contracts are fair or not, but I understand when there’s a track record of a number of athletes over a period of time having an issue with someone or a company, then that seems like a group that needs unionization in order to have the leverage to get the things that they want,” he continued.
“Welcome to the fight business, my friend,” White countered. “So right now we’re in a pandemic and all this stuff is going on. We just signed a contract eight months ago. You see me saying, ‘Oh no, no, this is going on and that’s going on, I have to pay you less money.’
“No, I’m paying them exactly the same amount of money no matter what’s going on,” White continued. “In the history of this company, I’ve never asked a fighter to go backward ... ever. I have 630 fighters under contract and we’re talking about two.”
Foxworth went on to say that usually when there are squabbles with multiple people involved, you have to look at the common denominator. In this case, UFC.
“I do know the ins-and-outs of sports labor,” Foxworth added. “I know that when you have a bunch of angry, upset athletes, there’s normally a reason why they should be angry and upset.”
White, naturally, had a response for that little quip, saying, “I have 630 fighters under contract, and we’re talking about two.” Not one to back down, Foxworth had a simple rebuttal.
In the end, Foxworth admitted that perhaps he could have been a bit more informed on the subject of UFC fighter pay and the workings of contracts before criticizing White and the promotion.