We’ve created, literally, nearly 70 millionaires since we took this thing over, and some of them multimillionaires.” That is what UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta claims the promotion has accomplished in the combat sports world since UFC parent company Zuffa LLC acquired the show over a decade ago at the turn of the millennia.
Both Lorenza Fertitta and UFC president Dana White recently sat down with The Bleacher Report for an in-depth interview fighter contracts. This has always been a hot topic due to the UFC’s tight-lipped contract policy, and the vast income gap between MMA fighters and other mainstream athletes like Tom Brady and Floyd Mayweather. Fertitta told the B/R, “People want to compare us to other sports, and in some sense that’s fair to do.”
“There are a number of things that are unique to our business,” Fertitta stated. “First and foremost, we absorb 100 percent of all production and marketing costs associated with the event. The NFL gets a license fee from FOX. Even boxing gets a licensing fee from HBO. Those media entities then roll in and operate the entire production. They do all of the marketing. So those expenses are not borne upon the actual league or entity. In our case, we televise the entire card. There’s over a thousand people who get paychecks when we do these events. It’s a massive, massive undertaking.”
“In addition to that, we’re building a sport. We’ve had to open up offices in various countries around the world, work to get laws passed in states all over the U.S. and Canada. When you actually take into account those costs that we bear, and other leagues don’t, we actually compare very favorably on an apples-for-apples basis.”
The UFC has clearly bred some high-earners like Georges St. Pierre who has been reported to make a cool $4-5 million per fight, and others like Anderson Silva and Jon Jones who have gained elite level sponsorship from Nike. Jones Tweeted a picture in weeks past of the entrance to Coca-Cola headquarters, hinting that even more sponsorship money will begin to trickle into the MMA market. As the sport continues to grow and become a household name with the help of FOX Sports, it will only be a matter of time before all fighters begin to make big money.
Although, since its inception, the UFC has had plenty of complaints regarding fighter pay. UFC Hall of Fame’r Randy Couture for instance, has a history of contract disputes with the UFC and has remained vocally opinionated on the the subject. Couture told the B/R, “It’s hard for me to sit here and bitch and complain about the pay I got when I made more money competing in mixed martial arts than I ever made doing anything else. Does it irk me that Floyd Mayweather can fight one time and make $40 million? Well, that’s more than I made in my career. Yeah, that bothers me.”
“The biggest issue is between what the promoter’s making from all the pay-per-views and everything else versus how much all the fighters who fought in that single year made. That number maybe needs to shift a little bit.”
While we all know fighters are making much more than what they were when Randy first stepped inside the octagon, while Zuffa continues to build the UFC fighter salaries will gradually reach a level where everyone is happy. Dana White told the B/R, “We don’t give out numbers. We don’t say how much fighters get paid or what the company is making. It’s something that we don’t do and it drives people crazy.”
“When Randy Couture says that’s more than he made in his entire career, Randy Couture’s career was in the dark ages,” said Dana. “He was on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter when that thing first started to take off. The money that’s in this sport now, compared to when Randy Couture was here, is night and day.”