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.”

Link: MMAFighting.com


Payout Perspective:

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.

5 Responses to “UFC 170 pre-fight presser scrum focuses on fighter pay & sponsorships”

  1. Logical on February 22nd, 2014 4:50 PM

    Nate Quarry said it best:

    “When I signed with the UFC this is what I was told:

    We can’t pay you much but you can have any sponsors you want.

    Then: We need to approve your sponsors.

    Then: You can’t have any conflicting sponsors.

    Then: You can’t thank your sponsors after fights.

    Then: We are not approving any sponsors that we don’t like their product.

    Then: Your sponsors have to pay us a fee of $50,000 for the pleasure to sponsor you.

    Then: Your sponsors have to pay us a fee of $100,000 for the pleasure to sponsor you.”

    The UFC sends mix signals and has double standards with the way that they have handled sponsorships… but as usual, the ones getting screwed are the fighters.

  2. N2 on February 22nd, 2014 6:09 PM

    Almost all pro sports don’t allow any random sponsor on gear doing the competition. This isn’t unique to UFC. Michael Jordan got in fights over that when he played.

    The norm is very strict controls.

  3. Jose Mendoza on February 22nd, 2014 6:32 PM

    @N2: This is not an argument about what the norm in other sports league, mind you that other leagues have unions to negotiate fair deals on the player’s behalf, but the fact that the rules keep changing all the time. At one point sponsorship money was how fighters used to make a bulk of their money. That isn’t the case now and without any other revenues for the fighters to make money outside of the UFC, many are starting to turn into commentating and other gigs, but for the majority of fighters who are not stars or draws, this will definitely sting for a while.

  4. wqewqeqw on February 22nd, 2014 7:40 PM

    I liked the head trauma press conference that the UFC held a few weeks ago…

    The UFC is trying to get ahead of the massive class action lawsuit that they are going to get hit with when all of their Fighters are full blown r*tards in about 3 years…. UFC one upped the NFL here…

  5. Diego on February 23rd, 2014 6:11 PM

    You can’t hurt the guys at the bottom and expect to get good guys working their way to the top. That’s not the way to grow the sport. Too many fighters are finding too difficult to make a living and when enough of them retire broke, it will stop new guys from wanting to join. Especially when the guys who are broke aren’t living crazy lifestyles, they just never managed to do more than barely keep their head above water fighting in the top promotion for multiple years.

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