UFC left off of ESPN salary list for lack of information
May 3, 2012
Earlier this week, ESPN released its list of highest paid athletes in sports. Notably, the list left off the sport of MMA and specifically the UFC due to the fact that it could not confirm salary data.
MMA Fighting wrote that Dana White is right and wrong with not releasing fighter salary data. It states that White is right to withhold salary info because it is private. Presumably, it protects the privacy of its fighters by not telling everyone how much they make per fight. However, there is a reason to release salaries:
Football, basketball and baseball are mainstream because they’re big business. And part of the reason we know they’re big business is because players salaries are made public.
It then argued a reason to make salaries public is to entice up and coming fighters.
And make no mistake, there are plenty of possible MMA stars who are on football fields. In many parts of the country, football and wrestling work together to create quality athletes. But then what happens? As the athlete progresses, he starts thinking about his future. And where is there a better chance for a future? Of course most, if given the opportunity, will move on to football. Why? Because long-term, there is a chance for a windfall payday. Even if it’s remote, there is a chance.
It uses the Jones brothers as an example. Two of the Jones brothers are now in the NFL while Jon is probably the most famous as the UFC champ. This example is flawed considering there is no evidence that Jon Jones was good at football (or any other sport) and chose MMA instead.
MMA Fighting’s argument that the sport of MMA could lose out on potential athletes because of the lack of salary information is improbable. Most likely athletes will choose their profession based on the best possible chance of making it in the professional ranks of the sport. There are examples of athletes choosing a sport and then reversing course. (NFL First Rounder Brandon Wheedon played baseball a couple years before going back to play college football and getting drafted.) But that example is beyond the scope of the theory that someone will actually choose a sport based on how much you could make. There are instances of former football players taking up MMA after their pigskin career is done. But, that is after their first career is over.
Moreover, it’s not plausible to think that someone would choose a career in MMA over a career in NFL because money in MMA is not as good as that in professional football. Even without knowing the salary structure in MMA, one need only look to the salaries that NFL rookies will make to assume that if you had a choice to play professionally or fight in MMA, one would choose the NFL.
Transparency of the UFC’s salaries lends credibility to the sport based in part on the fact that the other sports are willing to reveal the way it pays its athletes. For the UFC to say “it’s none of your business” makes it seem that it is hiding something rather than protecting the privacy of its fighters. The ESPN OTL report builds on the premise that it is hiding something. Like it or not, that is how it is perceived.