ESPN’s “video magazine” Outside the Lines [Edit: initially this said E:60, it is actually Outside the Lines] is going to be running a piece in the near future about the UFC and fighter pay. There is a one minute preview of the feature which talks briefly to Lorenzo Fertitta and Ken Shamrock and talks about the control the UFC can exert over fighter wages.
Here’s the clip:
Here’s a transcript of the meat of the video:
Lorenzo Fertitta: “We have a better product, we put up our money and we were smarter than everyone else.”
Narrator: “Many within the sport are convinced the company is well on it’s way to becoming a monopoly. Able to exert even greater control over fighter wages. At the lowest levels the UFC pays its fighters just a few thousand dollars per fight.”
Ken Shamrock: “The UFC has gone out and strategicaly bought out every company or they cut the knees out from underneath them when they tried to get started by putting on shows when their shows were on. Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with that kind of business. But when you get into that kind of position, then don’t use that kind of position to hold the fighters hostage.”
Lorenzo: “We’re giving these guys tremendous opportunity to be able to make more money, get bigger exposure, get bigger sponsors. And when you throw out the term monopoly, that’s the most ridiculous thing anyone could ever say.”
Of course, the immediate backlash is an ignorant “ESPN doesn’t like MMA”/”They’re mad about the Fox deal.” But that’s not really how E:60 works. Given that they’ve done pieces critical of every major sports it’s foolish to act as though the UFC should be kept clear of a critical eye.
Let’s be honest, to an outsider it has to look strange that the UFC’s grand moment of putting on a heavyweight title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos and Velasquez takes home $100,000 in reported income, that looks a little strange. Especially when the same night saw Joel Casamayor get $100,000 on the undercard of the Pacquiao vs. Marquez show just to drag his far past its prime body into the ring and take a beating. And this is another good chance to point out that saying “boxers are paid too much” is pretty dumb given that you’re talking about Bob Arum promoting them, meaning that the “greedy pig” (as Dana White called him) is voluntarily paying fighters more than they’re worth.
That’s not to say that the pay structure of the UFC is completely off. I’ve said before that I don’t think their salaries have scaled quite in line with the promotion’s growth, but that doesn’t mean there is a criminal underpaying going on. Just simply that it’s not hard for an outsider to look at a sport that is in a boom period where all but a small group aren’t exactly making life changing sums of money.
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