White: How fighter pay really works

by KJ Gould | source: bloodyelbow.com

UFC President Dana White recently sat down for an interview with James Koh for Fox 11 Los Angeles, and covered a wide variety of topics including Roy Nelson ("Ultimate Underachiever") and how fighter pay really works.

James Koh: This Manny Pacquiao / Timothy Bradley fight ... brought in about $9 million at the gate ... people bought about 900,000 Pay Per View buys, Manny's guaranteed about $26 million, Bradley guaranteed about $5 million. But when we look at UFC 148, Silva vs Sonnen, one of the most popular fights in UFC history, you guys brought in $7million at the gate, you guys sold about a million Pay Per View buys ...

Dana White: (interrupting) ... allegedly.

JK: Allegedly (laughs) ... when we look at the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and we look at what Anderson Silva made, $200,000, Chael Sonnen made 50 grand -- 50 grand! -- So people say, 'This is crazy!', so I gotta ask you, why don't you guys disclose guaranteed amounts?

DFW: Well we do, that is the guaranteed amount. That's the guaranteed amount. So here's the way that this really works ... you hear about Manny and Floyd, those are the two guys that are getting paid the big money ... the reality is if you look at this Dawson / Ward fight that just happened last weekend ... I think (Ward) made about $1.6 million and Dawson made about $600,000 ... that's a big fight outside of a Pacquiao / Floy fight, and if you look at the UFC numbers compared to Boxing now, we smoke them ... then when you look down their card, the numbers drop big time. When you look at a UFC card, the numbers are consistent all the way through.

I'm not running around your question here, the answer to your question is, these guys obviously get paid a lot more money than what you're seeing on things, they come in, negotiate a contract, and there's other ways that these guys get paid through bonuses and incentives. And in no way, shape or form is there anywhere in their contract that says they couldn't come out and tell you what they make.

If Georges St. Pierre was sitting in this chair, or Anderson Silva, and they wanted to tell you what their last pay day was, they absolutely, positively have the right to do that, there's no gag order on them or anything; they don't want you to know ...

When we first did this deal with Fox, right? The Fox guys says ... 'What do these guys get paid?', we started telling them what some of the guys get paid and they were like, 'Oh my god! You guys should be screaming this from the roof tops ... don't you remember when Tyson used to fight, and they'd put in the thing that he was making $30 million for that fight?' and I said to them, 'Yeah, and look what happened to Mike Tyson', you know what I mean?

When your money gets published and you're making big, big money ...

JK: (interrupting) ... the scavengers come out.

DFW: They come out of the woodwork, man, and they're all over you. You know, we don't disclose what the fighters make and it kills the media, and it kills the fans, they want to know so bad ...

JK: (interrupting) ... because we see it in every other sport, Dana!

DFW: (interrupting) ... in every other sport, I agree. No I agree with you, 100%.

JK: How did you get to that conclusion that you're not going to disclose that?

DFW: It just started to happen, I mean we never disclosed our Pay Per View numbers because we don''t have to, we're not a public company, we never ... it's not about the money, 'cause no matter what in the media, because you don't know 'Oh these guys are getting screwed, they're not getting paid enough money', if it was out there on how much these guys really were making,'Oh this guy was making $10 million for this fight, and that's how he fought, it becomes this, that ...'

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Haulport site profile image  

9/18/12 11:29 PM by Haulport

I disagree with your "bar" statement. All the major established sports have these EXCESSIVELY rigid paths that someone must take or they are looked upon poorly or not even given an opportunity at all (which is most of the time). There is ZERO flexibility in theses sports and if you aren't coming out of college as a major name you aren't dick. As a matter of fact the rigidity of this ladder even determines how teams stick with guys who absolutely STINK because they were highly touted, drafted high or have a big paycheck. There are so many guys who could be playing and performing better than drafted players but the system is impossible to crack any other way and it's not just because the guys who go down that funnel are the best necessarily. For God's sake the Buffalo Bills thru away a chance to go to and win the Superbowl because they wanted Rob Johnson (who sucked dog cock) as their starter instead of one of the biggest winners in sports history , Doug Flutie, because Johnson was a "Prototypical QB." I have seen that SO many times...

time traveling 12er site profile image  

9/18/12 9:07 PM by time traveling 12er

uh... the same reason why NBA players aren't allowed to snow board or skydive?Also, did I miss the huge rush of guys wanting to fight outside the UFC? The recent trend appears to be guys trying to limit their fights for the best bang for the buck.

time traveling 12er site profile image  

9/18/12 9:06 PM by time traveling 12er

They also have CBA's that determine the limitations of their contracts. Which is something the fighters should do, but will not have the effect that most of you people think it will. Most likely it's going to give the fighters structured pay and stability but reduce their freedom even more in exchange. All the other CBA's are basically negotiated monopolies, and guess who's name is going to be on the letterhead of that monopoly in MMA? anywaysPeople keep talking about how undercard fighters should get paid more, then the next minute they're shitting on them for not being worth paying to watch. If they're not worth paying to watch why should they get paid more? If a fighter can generate more money they'll make more money, point blank. Which is why Anderson Silva got paid less than Lesnar. Despite what everyone thinks this still is a merit based system, only it's not based on MMath but on money.Also, whoever said how difficult it is to be an MMA fighter, please. Yeah it's hard, but compared to the NFL or the other major sports, the road to the big show is a joke. Realize that Jon Jones is the runt of his family, who is made up of lower tier NFL players. Heck even in Hockey players have to start playing in travel leagues starting from jr. high. Yeah it's amazing what these guys do to get to the octagon, but don't embarrass yourself by trying to compare it to one of the majors. The bar to make it in to the UFC is much lower than any of the major sports. That's just the reality of a young sport.

Haulport site profile image  

9/18/12 4:15 PM by Haulport

No my frens......Cindy's answer here is exactly Lorenzo's attitude summed up very nicely: "We control the game. You have no options." This is why Lorenzo doesn't focus on his product. This is why he never lobbies the Commissions to change the rules or judges or ref (even though they CONSTANTLY lobby NY to hold events) All he is and has been focused on is CRUSHING all competition from suing the IFL and Bellator to counter programming Affliction and Strikeforce to holding shows in the UK to kill CageRage. As long as the fighters have NO OTHER OPTIONS Lorenzo is in control. As long as he is in control a UFC PPV will make just as much as a Manny/Bradley PPV in gate and buys but NO ONE will make anywhere near what Bradley did on that card (Bradley made $5mm to Manny's $26mm). This is the truth and Cindy summed it up for everyone perfectly...........

RockyBullwinkle site profile image  

9/18/12 2:37 PM by RockyBullwinkle

Huh? Are you replying to me or someone else?

KingofBJJ site profile image  

9/18/12 8:13 AM by KingofBJJ

I trust the UFC as much as I trust the government to come knock on my door and ask for my SSN and birthday and tell me its for my own good.

Mendozaaaa site profile image  

9/18/12 4:26 AM by Mendozaaaa

IMO, it all comes down to fans wanting a better outcome for their favourite stars, in their favourite sport.The only reason people are asking to know what MMA fighters make is so they can be sure the UFC isn't giving them the rough end of the stick, while giving us the entertainment we all enjoy.We all want fighters to be paid what they're worth and to be able to earn a decent living to compensate them for the effort they put in, the sacrifices they make and the brain cells they lose.The UFC isn't obligiged to give us this information, nor should they be, but I for one would still like to see their disclosed pay be increased across the board if only to attract more young people to consider it as a career (so we can have more kick-ass fighters to watch in the future!).

NotImpressedByYourScreenName site profile image  

9/18/12 4:05 AM by NotImpressedByYourScreenName

He FINALLY concedes defeat and duck tucks. Well done MrWipple, you have more patience than I sir :)

UGCTTN00B site profile image  

9/18/12 2:48 AM by UGCTTN00B

This world would be so much better if the concept of money was never thought of.

Macedawgg site profile image  

9/18/12 2:37 AM by Macedawgg

What a pompous post Ryan Black-- The NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL all seem to do just fine--with full disclosure--in fact, they do better because they disclose.  Boxing seems to market with disclosure, and generate all kinds of interest they wouldn't otherwise. Of course, the UFC can't disclose and maintain the fiction that they pay the same percentages as the other sports, so they don't, but tell you "trust me"--it is the same.