Yesterday ESPN.com published an article claiming that UFC fighters are underpaid, a precursor to an episode of ‘Outside The Lines’ which tackles the subject in-depth this Sunday morning at 10am on ESPN 2.
The article includes comments from unnamed fighters within the UFC who suggest that they are in essence being ripped of by the sport’s leading promotion.
“We’re basically fighting for crumbs,” says one, while another goes further, stating, “They want us hungry. They want us to be poor … so they have more control over us.”
The article goes on to cite other figures within the sport who suggest it’s time for the fighters to start a union, while also touching on the contentious issue that the UFC is running monopoly and indicates that their employees are scared to speak out for fear of reprisals.
While the piece also has some quotes from UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta giving his side of the story, overall it’s an article that paints the promotion in a bad light, and needless to say UFC president Dana White is furious about it.
In a series of Twitter messages after the story broke White suggested this was a deliberate hatchet job by ESPN, lashed out the article’s co-author Josh Gross who he’s had run-ins with in the past,. and reveals that the UFC themselves recorded the full interview with OTL and Fertitta and will air it at a later date to prove that the show has manipulated what he said to suit their own means.
Read some of White’s comments below.
“Josh [Gross] is a pessimistic scumbag who pitched the story. The beauty is we filmed the interview too.”
“We will air the entire [Fertitta] interview as is no edits after ESPN airs theirs! Looking very forward to this :)”
“Trust me I have been a part of ESPN hack jobs that’s why I don’t do those BS shows and why we filmed it”
“I’m in Rio but my stuff is ready to roll!!! I’m excited to smash and discredit ESPN and the piece they did!! So pumped!”
“Can’t stand the lying 2 faced media fucks!! So glad we did this one right cause ESPN can NOT be trusted.”
“UFC doesn’t mean shot to them especially now that we are on FOX. ESPN has to own and control EVERYTHING!!!”
This is not the first time that White has lashed out at ESPN. He also did so last year when he claimed that the network had pulled a series of interviews he had at ESPN HQ to promote an upcoming event at short notice as a knee-jerk reaction to the UFC announcing their new television deal with FOX.
Meanwhile there’s been suggestions that the UFC and ESPN UK have been at loggerheads behind-the-scenes which has lead to shows like ‘UFC On Versus’, ‘UFC On FOX’ and ‘Spike TV Prelims Live’ not being aired on the channel.
Of course White also has a well documented feud with ESPN journalist Josh Gross which dates back a number of years to a time when Gross was still working for sherdog.com and revealed the winner of The Ultimate Fighter Season 4 live on air during the ‘Beatdown’ radio show.
The negative story in itself is enough to push the UFC President’s buttons, but the people involved appear to have only fueled his anger.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Fertitta’s comments from the interview are portrated on OTR and how that compares to the full footage which White claims he’ll air, but it shouldn’t be forgotten in all this that it’s just one part of the story.
The main thrust of the story is about the unnamed fighters who were interviewed for the article who clearly feel that they are being undervalued and taken advantage of, and that’s something that White has avoided commenting on so far.
The subject of fighter payouts is one that’s been a source of fascination for anyone with an interest in the sport, particularly given the apparent disparity in payouts between the biggest headline stars who get hundreds of thousands of dollars as a basic salary and a share of the PPV sales, through to the up and coming prelim fighters who earn just a few thousand dollars per show.
Over time we have seen the fighter salaries on the lower end of the scale increase, but they are still on the low side, and the ESPN article suggesting the median earnings on the roster as a whole are around $17,000 – $23,000 per year.
So there are legitimate concerns here, and it will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the coming days and whether anything positive comes out of it or if it quickly descends into a Dana White Vs ESPN / Josh Gross circus that circumnavigates the real issues at hand.