Last week retired UFC middleweight Nate "Rock" Quarry received widespread attention for a post he made on the The UnderGround. Although he was widely quoted selectively by members of the MMA media, his message was in fact balanced, offering both thanks to his former employers as well as pointed criticism.
On the one hand, Quarry expressed disappointment with the UFC.
"After spending 10-15 years chasing your dream only to see that the company it's been your dream to fight for cares nothing about the fighters and only cares about the bottom line," he said.
However, there were grateful words as well.
"I love what the UFC has done for me and my family," said Quarry, adding "and specifically what Dana has done for me."
Among the bigger surprises of the post was that Quarry was paid only $10,000 for his title shot vs. Rich Franklin in 2005.
On top of the complaints around fighter pay, the UFC has been criticized the past few weeks over PED testing, fighter uniforms, and FightPass, among other issues.
While it is natural for fans to side with athletes over management, it has to be remembered that when Quarry made $10,000 for a title fight, ZUFFA was 44 million dollars in the hole. Quarry also later said that the UFC had paid for surgery that they were not obligated to, at a cost of $100,000.
Now, in an interview with Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole, ZUFFA CEO Lorenzo Fertitta responds.
UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta was clearly weary of discussing complaints about the company's business practices.
"This sport is in its infancy," said Fertitta. "And I'll admit that there is so much more to be done, but the media is focusing so much on the negative and there are far more positives out there in terms of what we have done for the sport and the fighters. You come to work every day and you kind of feel beaten down because it's something new [to complain about] every day."
"I'm not going to argue or counter every specific claim made by Nate Quarry on some website. I'm super proud of what we have done for our athletes, this sport and this company. Our track record is darn good as a whole and we have nothing to be embarrassed about.
"This fight Nate is talking about was so long ago and clearly the business wasn't where it is today. It was in its infancy and we were coming out of a period where we suffered millions upon millions in losses. It wasn't an insignificant amount of money. And I'll tell you this, Nate is a smart guy. Absolutely he is. He knew when he signed his contract exactly what he'd be paid."
In an interview with Iole, Quarry estimated that UFC fighters were paid just 1-2% of gross. Fertitta flatly denied the figure.
"That's not even close but I'm not going to go into specifics about it," said Fertitta. "I'm interested in how Nate Quarry knows so much about our business that he can say that. As I said earlier, though, fighter compensation has increased multiples upon multiples since we've gotten into the business and built it up to where it is today.
"We're very proud of what our athletes make. Granted, back in 2004, 2005, it was a different world. We weren't getting the revenues back then that we are today. We feel the fighters are getting their fair share, if not more."
"[Fighter payroll] has gone up significantly, and though I don't have it at the tip of my fingers, I can tell you it's gone up faster than the percentage of revenue growth. Fighter comp is growing at a faster rate than revenues."
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During Thursday's pre fight media event, UFC president Dana White addressed the issue as well.
"I like Nate Quarry," said White, as transcribed bytFOXSports. "Let me tell you what, you're never going to hear me say anything negative about any of those guys from season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter. I f---ing love all those guys, I respect them. I've always had a great relationship with Nate Quarry.
"Lorenzo said it the best, It's unfortunate that Nate fought at a time when we were still $44 million in the hole, you know? The sport has evolved so much since then. It's easy to look back and go 'they invested $44 million and this thing's worth a few billion.' Easy to say that now. But back then? ... It was so close to being shut down and going away. There was a time I was like, we're never, f--- ever get that $44 million back. It's never going to happen. There was a time when I absolutely believed that."
White also blunty addressed Quarry's concerns about the dramatically increased difficulty in fighters getting sponsorships, particularly with fights that are shown on FightPass.
"It's not my f---ing problem," said White. "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---ing deal."
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