The UFC fighter pay scales have been discussed a lot over the past few years, with the discussion picking up intensity and aggravating UFC president Dana White of late. The company line has long been that the UFC has made x-amount of millionaires since Zuffa took over. This statement is, from a company standpoint, technically true, until you take in expenses, taxes and everything else it takes to be a professional fighter. I still get the distinct feeling that if you look in any given UFC fighter’s bank account you won’t see seven figures, but call that just a hunch.
The crusade to prove that the UFC is a noble organization has been on the shoulders of Dana White and Lorenzo Fertita almost entirely, with no fighters really coming out and saying “I’m happy about how much they pay me.” I mean, it makes sense in a way, because you don’t expect a fighter like GSP, who sits near the top of UFC’s pay scale, coming out and saying, It took years for me to get paid this much and I’m comfortable now, but why aren’t you paying guys fighting on Facebook prelims more money?” They know that it could negatively impact their standing with the company, or even get them a pay decrease in the future if the UFC was spreading the money around more.
Well, for retired former UFC Champion Chuck Liddell, who still has a job with the UFC, which seems to just be showing up at events and doing the occasional press tour, he came out and made a case in a recent interview. He explains that you just have to be more entertaining.
“Okay, look. I just had this conversation with a top-10 fighter, and he’s saying the same thing. These guys have got to understand, this is a performance based sport, like all sports. You fight good, you win, you get paid. Alright? You’re starting out, no one knows who you are, no one cares, you don’t get paid. Period. It’s simple. I mean, my first contract I was offered by the UFC, or my second contract, it was 1-and-1, 2-and-2, 3-and-3. That’s $12,000 for the year. Don’t complain to me about fighter pay. It was $12,000 for a year and it was exclusive. What are you guys kidding me what am I going to do with this.”
“Everybody doesn’t want to hurt to lower guys from getting paid, but it comes down to, it’s a performance based business. You get good, you win, then you get paid. Guys are getting paid plenty, trust me. I got paid plenty, trust me.”
“You’re an entertaining, you’re fighting… basically it’s a performance based sport. People have to want to see you fight. So if they want to see you fight you’ll get paid. If you’re a fighter that makes money, you’ll get paid. Everybody points to, ‘Oh, boxing these guys are getting…’ There’s a couple guys that make these big huge paydays. That’s it. The undercards don’t make anything. There’s bottom guys on some of those cards that are making $100 a round. $100 a round. That’s $400 for a four-round fight.
“People got to understand, the fighters at the top are the fighters that are supposed to get paid because they’re the guys that are bringing people in, bringing eyes to the TV, getting pay-per-views buys, and putting people in the seats. I mean, that’s what it comes down to. You want to get that? Beat everybody. Be good enough. If you’re not good enough to get there — sorry. It’s not a welfare state.”
“You picked the wrong profession. I saw a guy in California, he said “I won 8 fights in a row and I can’t make a living,” cause he wasn’t I guess. I looked at your record. you won 8 fights in a row on these small shows. You fought in the UFC twice, you came up twice after winning long streak wins and lost twice. Hey, you made a good run at it. You tried. Eh, try another sport because this one doesn’t work for you. You can’t even beat an entry level guy into the UFC.”