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Aljamain Sterling fires back at Michael Chandler over UFC fighter pay: ‘What about your sleepless nights?’

After Michael Chandler went to bat for UFC over fighter pay, Aljamain Sterling took the time to respond in favor of the athletes.

UFC 273: Volkanovski v The Korean Zombie Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Aljamain Sterling has responded to Michael Chandler’s recent claim that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter pay is right where it needs to be given how hard the promotion works in comparison to its athletes.

“I think people think we should make a lot more money because the UFC makes a ton of money on their shows,” Chandler said on the How U Livin J Piven podcast. “Well, UFC’s been at it since 1993. Dana White has had 10,000 sleepless nights when most of us fighters are just showing up to practice and going to bed, laying our head on the pillow and getting after it, and getting paid a decent wage for what we do.”

Sterling broke down the financial reality of many fighters coming up in the organization and how thin the margins are recently on his personal YouTube channel.

“Him saying Dana White had 10,000 sleepless nights,” Sterling said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “Michael Chandler, you’ve been competing since you were out of the womb pretty much. What about all your sleepless nights of training, cutting weight? What about all the other fighters training, cutting weight? You can’t say all we do is go to the gym, train, sleep and repeat. Some of us have second jobs. I had a second job all the way through my career until after I beat ‘Tanquino’ [Augusto Mendes].

“I came into UFC at eight and eight, $8,000 to win, $8,000 to show,” Sterling continued. “So if step on the scale, I show up, and I step into the Octagon, I make $8,000. Before taxes, before expenses, just to get to the fight, travel expenses, all that, food, equipment, we’re not talking about any of that included.

“Then I make another $8,000 if I win,” he added. “Now, minus pay for coaches ... five percent to [coach] Ray [Longo], five percent to [coach] Matt [Serra], 10 percent to management, then I pay taxes on whatever’s left, what I keep.... My second fight is 10 and 10, my third fight is 12 and 12, the last fight on my contract is 14 and 14.

“Now, you guys do the math,” he said. “I’d have been making $56,000 starting, in Long Island [New York], as a physical education teacher, plus benefits, plus a retirement. So when you weigh that out, for Michael Chandler to say fighters just wake up, train, go to sleep, that’s kind of like, do you not value what you bring to the table for your bosses?”

Sterling pointed out that UFC was breaking records and making tons of money.

“If you get to a certain threshold, there should be a bottom line minimum of what everyone should get, which should be enough to sustain themselves from not having or needing to work another job,” he suggested.

“At the end of the day, Chandler, you and I could agree that there is more to spread around for the fighters based on the numbers that have been shown and revealed,” Sterling said. “I’m not saying the UFC doesn’t do a great job of making sure they’re making millionaires, but to say we couldn’t be doing more, couldn’t be doing better for the fighters, I think you’d be lying to yourself. But it is what it is. I think brighter days are going to come eventually.”

With UFC still paying its fighters closer to 20 percent of revenue than the 50 percent that is the standard of other major leagues, the only way things can go is up.