The UFC has always caught flack for fighter pay, which tends to pale in comparison to what athletes make in other similarly dangerous sports like boxing or football. According to UFC President Dana White, however, fighter pay has skyrocketed over recent years — in 2019 in particular.
“Money is always the topic,” White said in an interview with ESPN, the official broadcast partner of the UFC. “But as the sport continues to go like this [gestures upward], so does the numbers. When you become a star, when you become a world champion or somebody that can… I mean, ask some of these world champions the difference in the last year. They’ll feel it.”
Contrary to this comment from White, UFC fighter pay is still a nebulous topic. While some athletic commissions disclose fighter salaries, others do not, and we are often reminded that the salaries that are disclosed do not include pay-per-view points and ill-defined “locker room bonuses.”
White blames fighters for the lack of public information surrounding their pay. He claims that they are free to talk about money if they choose to, but that most choose not to.
“It’s crazy money,” White said. “I think a lot of people would be shocked if you heard what some of these big stars are making, but I don’t ever talk about that. These guys, they know what they make, and you don’t see them talking about it, either. There’s no clause in their contract that says that they can’t. They can do whatever they want to do, but they don’t want their money out there.”
White concluded by identifying former two-division champion Conor McGregor, reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, and reigning UFC women’s bantamweight and featherweight champ Amanda Nunes as some of the promotion’s top owners.
“If you talk to, obviously, Conor McGregor and guys like Khabib that are huge superstars that have an entire country and an entire race or religion of people following them, the numbers are massive,” he said. “Even somebody like Amanda Nunes, if you look at what females are paid in other sports compared to the males, and you look at what Amanda Nunes makes here, it’s pretty impressive.”
What are your thoughts on fighter pay in the UFC? Do you share Dana White’s optimism or do you think there’s room for improvement?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 12/30/2019.