UFC President Dana White says the pay of fighters in the organization will not change dramatically as long as he is in his current position.
The topic of paying fighters has been a hot-button issue in MMA for years and has been further spotlighted in recent months by YouTuber turned boxer, Jake Paul. White has said he believes high profile boxers are overpaid and reiterated in the GQ interview that he believes UFC fighters are paid more reasonably.
“Boxing is absolutely destroyed, because of money and all the things that happen,” White said. “It will never happen while I’m here. Believe me, these guys get paid what they should get. They eat what they kill. They get a percentage of the pay-per-view purchases. And the money is spread out among all fighters.”
UFC pays fighters about 20% of its earnings, according to data unearthed during the pending antitrust lawsuit filed by some former fighters against the promotion. Other major sports leagues, such as the NFL, NBA, and MLB, share about half of their revenues with players, but those leagues are unionized and athletes can bargain collectively through player associations. MMA fighters, and specifically UFC fighters, don’t have anything comparable right now.
“Boxing is absolutely destroyed, because of money and all the things that happen. It’s never going to happen as long as I’m here. Believe me, these guys get paid what they should get. They eat what they kill. They get a percentage of the pay -per-view purchases. And the money will be distributed among all fighters.”
Dana White, on UFC pay rises
UFC fighters are classified as independent contractors, which could make collective bargaining legally difficult. Several attempts to unite UFC fighters have failed over the past 10 years, including one by former baseball agent Jeff Borris.
“There aren’t many things you can talk about about the UFC,” White told GQ. “If you look at what we’ve done with the company over the last 22 years, it’s incredible. Never done, never, the things we’ve done in combat. You always have to have something to moan about, I think. And fighters always want to make more money.”
White and executives at UFC parent company Endeavor have argued that fighters’ pay has risen exponentially over the past decade, although UFC’s revenue has grown significantly since then as well.
“No major sports organization pays its athletes as badly as Dana White & UFC,” Paul tweeted in response to White’s GQ comments. “If you can’t see that, you’re one of Dana’s sheep. They keep talking about selling 21 events in a row, but never talking about raising fighters’ wages, providing healthcare and fair distribution of income.”
The antitrust lawsuit filed against UFC in 2014 by former fighters, including Cung Le, alleges that the promotion is a monopoly or monopsony, controlling the vast majority of the sport’s market share, leading fighters to enter into restrictive contracts that prevent them from doing so. can test their value in the open market and suppress wages.
The lawsuit is led by fighters from the MMA Fighters Association, which does not want to form a union. Instead, the MMAFA would like the Muhammad Ali boxing law, which provides contractual protections to boxers, to be extended to MMA. That extension to MMA was presented as a bill to the House of Representatives in 2017 by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla. The UFC has lobbied hundreds of thousands against the proposed law.
In 2020, a federal judge said he would grant classification in the antitrust case, turning it into a class action that could allow a larger number of combatants to pay a share of what could be billions in damages. The judge, Richard Boulware, has not made the certification of the classes official and the case appears to be many years ahead.
“The UFC has set up a compensation structure that pays fighters less than 20% of sales,” MMAFA founder Rob Maysey told ESPN. “The only way to determine which fighters should be paid is to remove the contractual restrictions imposed by the UFC and bring real competition to the market for fight services.”