Dana White says he can solve UFC fighter pay gripes – by eliminating bonuses


dana-white-92.jpgLAS VEGAS – The UFC is contemplating the elimination of fight-night and discretionary bonuses to fighters, the promotion’s president told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). 

“You don’t like the structure? All right, we’ll pay the lower-level guys more money – no more f–king bonuses,” Dana White said. “You guys come in, you negotiate your contracts, and we do away with all bonuses. That’s what I’m thinking about doing.”

White today said he and UFC co-owner and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta came up with the idea to redistribute wealth after several former and current UFC fighters publicly criticized the way the promotion pays its fighters. And if they follow through with it, they could find out very quickly if those currently under contract believe the current system is as bad as its often made to be. 

White said that for every UFC event that “kicks ass,” the promotion “makes sure that everybody gets a piece of the extra.” 

Now, the promotion could boost fighters’ base salaries across the board and take away rewards for those that perform. 

“The bonuses are something we’ve been doing out of the kindness of our f–king heart,” White said. “It was something we liked to do. Apparently, people don’t like it. They want the lower-level guys to get paid more money.”

For several years, the UFC has paid out discretionary bonuses, which include disclosed bumps for “Fight of the Night,” Submission of the Night,” and “Knockout of the Night,” as well as undisclosed checks that are sometimes distributed backstage or mailed after an event. 

Disclosed bonuses have gone as high as $129,000 at UFC 129, but recently leveled out to $50,000. The amount of discretionary bonuses ranges widely. 

The extras have pushed some fighters’ take-home earnings past the six-figure range for a single night’s work. At this past month’s UFC 161, first-time UFC fighter James Krause earned an additional $100,000 for “Submission of the Night” and “Fight of the Night,” pending the results of a drug test. 

However, several recent UFC castoffs, and one fighter set to make his octagon debut in Tim Kennedy, say that their disclosed pay shrinks considerably after deductions for training expenses and taxes. For preliminary-card fighters, who often take home $6,000 to show and $6,000 to win at an event, the financial hit can be particularly devastating if they are unable to fight more than twice a year. 

Add to that a sponsorship market that’s sunk since the sport’s boom in the late 2000s, and many up-and-comers are forced to look for secondary income. 

Onetime UFC title challenger Jon Fitch took aim at the promotion’s profit margins and said it should share more of its profits

“There are an overwhelming majority who do share that view,” said Fitch. “But they’re scared. They’re absolutely terrified because the fighters to them are just meat to be replaced easily.”

That replaceability is one reason White uses to justify the pay scale at the lower ranges. Because few preliminary-card fighters sell tickets, they aren’t entitled to big purses until they develop a winning record and a fan base that adds to the UFC’s bottom line.

White railed at fighters with “unrealistic expectations” and said the UFC’s pay scale often is compared unfairly to sports franchises such as the NFL. 

“We’re more like Major League Soccer, as far as financials go,” he said. “You fight three times a year, you make [$50,000 to show and $50,000 to win], you’re making $300,000 a year fighting three times a year. I know you have to take jiu-jitsu and do all these other things, but we have the same thing. We don’t just put on fights; we have overhead, too.

“All these f–king morons have no idea what goes into this and what it takes to build a sport and a company at the same time. And we’ve been very fair to guys.”

(Pictured: Dana White)

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