When ZUFFA sold the UFC to WME-IMG for over $4,000,000,000, fighter expressions of concern over pay increased further. Most recently, former champion middleweight Luke Rockhold called his post-title pay bulls***, prior to the latest negotiation, which was ultimately successful. Lightweight Al Iaquinta became unsatisfied with his contract after he was injured, and refused to sign a bout agreement to fight Thiago Alves at UFC 205; the negotiation is believed to be ongoing.
Some of the concerns are fueled by the large purses going to a select few stars. In 2016, the league gave its first $1,000,000 show/win purse. Then Brock Lesnar got $2,500,000 for UFC 200. Then Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz got a combined $5,000,000 at UFC 202, split 3-2 in the Irishman’s favor. In the meantime, Rockhold’s purse was perhaps in the 85/85 range.
And that is not even counting cuts of the pay per view.
“There’s different level fights,” White explained. “When you fight on pay-per-view and you’re a star — basically in this sport you eat what you kill. So the guys that bring in the majority of the revenue, make the majority of the revenue.”
“If you look at where the UFC came from and where we are today, the one number that’s gone like this *pointing up* is fighter purses.”
White offered similar, expanded remarks in an interview back in 2013 after UFC 162.
“There’s a lots of s*** to do on a Saturday night,” he said. “These people make a decision on a Saturday night and watch our show. We get a show where a bunch of f***ing guys want to push against the fence, and stand there for 15 f***ing minutes and squeak out a win … how many people do you think are going to tune in next Saturday?”
“The guys that are complaining about this are the guys that don’t matter. Now that might sound f***ing mean and harsh – ‘Why oh why would nobody matter? Everybody matters.’
“We’re getting in this f***ing society now to where everybody should win a trophy. No. Everybody doesn’t win a f***ing trophy. The guys who stand out, the guys who deserve bonuses, the guys who make it exciting, the guys who rise to the top, are the guys who deserve the money.”
“Be the guy who stands out.”