UFC 170 pre-fight presser scrum focuses on fighter pay & sponsorships
February 22, 2014
UFC President Dana White discussed several topics during the UFC 170 pre-fight presser scrum, notably an update on the current status of Gilbert Melendez and recent fighter complains about fighter pay and sponsorships.
“It’s not my f— problem,” White told Iole and the media. “Getting sponsorship is a problem. It’s tough. It’s hard to do. That question is ridiculous. If a guy fights on Fight Pass, first of all, he’s getting paid to fight. That’s what he’s getting paid for. That’s what he does. How sponsorship works out for a guy is not my problem. That is not my problem. He’s a fighter, he gets paid to fight, period, end of story. Whatever extra money he makes outside of the UFC with sponsors and all that s—, that’s his f— deal.”
Dana White came under a lot of heat during the scrum, specifically on the topics of fighter pay and sponsorships. During the scrum, White’s insistence that fighters sponsorship money was not his problem troubled a number of fighters and media members. MMAFighting’s Luke Thomas solid piece in response to White’s tirade titled “Actually, fighter sponsorships are the UFC’s problem” hit the nail on the head. The UFC is now saying that this is not their problem now, but they have previously trumpeted fighter sponsorship as a rebuttal for fighters not getting paid enough. They have also created an environment for fighters which makes it very difficult for sponsors to jump on board after paying a sponsor fee and determining how many viewers their brand will actually reach.
At a time when UFC has broken into a certain level of mainstream in the US after monumental TV deals with FOX, Globo, and other major sponsors, fighters are finding it now harder than ever to find sponsors. As the article points out, there are many contributing factors that led to the current situation, but nearly all were self-inflicted by the UFC. Specifically, the creation of the sponsor tax and the banning of multiple lower-end sponsors have really hurt a large percentage of lower end fighters. In addition to the restrictions placed on the fighter-sponsor relationship, the UFC has continued to place it’s product on media platforms that have continued to drop in viewership and exposure throughout the years, such as the move from Spike TV, to FX & Fuel TV, to now FS1, FS2, and Fight Pass.
One of the biggest concerns right now for fighters is being placed on a Fight Pass card, which typically takes place out of the country with a limited stream viewership. MMAJunkie’s Steve Morocco got a glimpse of what a fighter has to consider now when taking a fight as he spoke to UFC fighter Zach Makovsky.
“They were like, ‘You can turn it down and we can get you on later, but that could be on a card on Fight Pass in Brazil, against a Brazilian,’” Makovsky said. Such a booking would have brought a hit to his pocket book in the form of flying his coaches to the fight and selling sponsors on the still-developing digital network. “I think this was the best scenario,” Makovsky said. “I always wanted to fight in Vegas.”
There is no denying that the UFC is looking towards the future with the sponsorship tax fee, the rumored uniform, and the the Fight Pass digital network. It does not appear that they were quite ready yet to make this transition as they are cutting the bottom half assuming that they will reap from the top, which does not appear to be the case yet. It may also not be the case 5 years from now and may take longer than they have anticipated, but they must workout some type of agreement with the fighters before the benefits of becoming an MMA fighter start to appear less and less beneficial for the lower end fighters.