**Joe Rogan discussed fighter pay on his podcast this week. Rogan brought up the pandemic with the loss of live gates and adding that WME has laid off a lot of people and are having lots of problems due to the shutdown. It’s a multi-layered discussion regarding fighter pay. The court documents that have come out in the anti-trust suit (and detailed heavily by the staff at Bloody Elbow) have shown that total fighter cost ranged from 16-19% of revenue from 2012-2015 through the UFC’s presentation documents in 2016. They estimated that percentage would hover between 19-20% in the four years to follow through 2020.
Fighters are taking a significantly lower percentage of revenue than other leagues with collective bargaining and representation. The fighters do not share in the live gate totals, concession sales, and most important the television revenue. The select few do have a percentage of the pay-per-view revenue if you are a champion or have a special deal.
The UFC can argue that during the pandemic they are providing fights for their contractors and are meeting their requirements. At the same time, the UFC is heavily incentivized to maintain their schedule and meet the requirements of their television deal and the fighters are necessary to fulfill those obligations and don’t share in the revenue.
It happens so often that a fighter signs a long-term contract and it makes little sense for the fighter to do so. It’s one-sided where UFC holds you to the number of fights on the deal, but they can also release you before the end of the deal. A fighter cannot get out of that deal until it’s fulfilled and doesn’t come with the security of knowing you will receive six fights, eight fights, or whatever the term is. It also becomes difficult when you become a draw and more popular yet are still making the same amount you did several fights back – and to their credit, UFC does redo a lot of deals when that occurs.
What we are seeing now is a perfect storm of the sport in chaos during the pandemic, three top fighters are all being vocal at the same time, and the media is taking notice of a longstanding issue within the sport. You can argue whether now is the best time to push this or the worst time – the UFC is taking in less revenue without live gates and other ancillary revenue but is still making lots from the television deal and monthly pay-per-view rights fee from ESPN+ that is just under $17 million per event.
**While UFC president Dana White was doing the media rounds promoting Fight Island, the discussion about fighter pay was brought up several times. This included a confrontational segment on ESPN’s First Take with co-host Dominique Foxworth, who brought up the claims by other fighters and their lack of union representation:
**The UFC 250 prelims on ESPN averaged 775,000 viewers this past Saturday for a block covering 6-10 pm Eastern. It should be noted there were no fights until 6:30 pm. The four-hour block was second for the night on cable with 0.29 in the 18-49 demographic. It was down 33% in total viewers from the UFC 249 prelims in May, which was a much bigger event. The demo rating was down 39.5% from UFC 249, however, both prelims were second for the night on cable. This month’s featured prelim fight featured Alex Caceres defeating Chase Hooper while last month had Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone, so it wasn’t even comparable with the difference in star power last month.
**The UFC had a lot of news come out on Tuesday regarding their cards for the summer. UFC president Dana White confirmed an earlier report that ‘Fight Island’ will be on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which is the same location as the UFC 112 pay-per-view in April 2010 and last September’s UFC 242 card where Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Dustin Poirier.
The promotion will run four events on the island in July starting with the UFC 251 card on July 11th followed by Fight Night cards on July 15th, 18th, and 25th. The UFC 251 pay-per-view will have three title fights with Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns for the welterweight title, a rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway for the featherweight title, a Jose Aldo vs. Petr Yan for the vacant bantamweight title.
The pay-per-view main card will also feature a rematch between former champions Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas. Namajunas had one of the best rounds of her career against Andrade in May 2019 and then got slammed and finished in the second round to lose the title. Namajunas has not fought since that fight and Andrade lost the title to Zhang Weili in her last fight. It will also have Paige VanZant vs. Amanda Ribas.
The decision to go with Burns as the challenger came after a last-ditch effort to work out a deal with Jorge Masvidal, which did not happen. Leon Edwards revealed that they came to him as well but couldn’t reach a deal. Ariel Helwani of ESPN reported that the shutdown in the UK made a short-notice fight involving Edwards to difficult to put together and Burns receives the title fight.
ESPN and ESPN+ will carry all the preliminary fights starting at 6 pm Eastern prior to the pay-per-view at 10 pm. They are keeping the U.S. timeslot in place meaning the prelims will start at 2 am local time in Abu Dhabi and the main card at 6 am.
**Nate Diaz on the fight between Usman and Burns:
This is what’s wrong with people claiming they’re fighters settling for less cause they know they’re not worth shit you should’ve fought the next guy in line not the guy who would take less cause he’s told too that’s why no one will remember youguys (sic) This isn’t a title fight
**The UFC has also announced the trilogy fight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier for Saturday, August 15th at a location to be determined. Kevin Iole has reported it will be in Las Vegas, but the venue isn’t official yet (Ariel Helwani reported on Wednesday that the promotion is looking at Las Vegas, Arizona, and California and are holding out hope they could have a live gate for the card). This is going to be a massive fight and one of the biggest in UFC history. I would say the 700,000 buys that Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje drew for UFC 249 would be a conservative estimate of the low-end this fight does.
Back in February, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said that the UFC 246 card featuring Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone did approximately one million buys and added 500,000 new subscribers. ESPN+ is currently at around 7.9 million subscribers with the UFC 252 in August a test to see if they can equal or surpass UFC 246.
**The ESPN 30 for 30 “Be Water” documentary on the life of Bruce Lee averaged 906,000 viewers on Sunday night. It was #5 among cable programs on Sunday and was promoted throughout the UFC 250 pay-per-view including a clip airing during the card.
**Invicta FC is returning on Thursday, July 2nd with a show in Kansas City that will be closed to fans and media. Invicta FC 40 is scheduled to feature the following fights and will be their first show since early March:
*Emily Ducote vs. Juliana Lima
*Alesha Zappitella vs. Lindsey VanZandt
*DeAnna Bennett vs. Victoria Leonardo
*Chelsea Chandler vs. Olivia Parker
*Laura Anderson vs. Claire Guthrie
*Genia Goodin vs. Shelby Koren
**MMA Junkie reported that a lightweight fight between Jim Miller and Roosevelt Roberts is expected to take place at the UFC Fight Night card on June 20th at the Apex in Las Vegas. This will be Miller’s 35th fight for the UFC going back to 2008. He has won two of his last three and coming off a decision loss to Scott Holtzman this past February. Roberts came off Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018 and has gone 4-1 in the promotion and coming off wins over Alexander Yakovlev and Brok Weaver two weeks ago. The June 20th card will be headlined by a heavyweight fight between Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov.
**There is a big interview by The Body Lock with Gray Maynard discussing the realities of fighting for the UFC and his issues he has had over the course of his career:
As a whole, we’re basically numbers, there’s only a couple of guys who aren’t but as a whole, we’re all pretty much numbers. And The more data and more information they can get, the more they can control the game. Just like buying out all the other promotions; they didn’t buy them out because they wanted to keep them going, they bought them out to not have any competition and control the game.
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