Bas Rutten discusses class action lawsuit against the UFC, fighter pay and the Reebok uniform deal

Just over a week ago, shook the MMA landscape when it was revealed that several high profile fighters had filed a class action…

By: Karim Zidan | 9 years ago
Bas Rutten discusses class action lawsuit against the UFC, fighter pay and the Reebok uniform deal
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Just over a week ago, shook the MMA landscape when it was revealed that several high profile fighters had filed a class action anti-trust lawsuit against the UFC worth $100 million. Within the lawsuit, the UFC is accused of sponsorship control to monopolistic control of the market by buying of competitors to lessen a fighter’s likeness.

While former UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten did not delve into the details of the lawsuit itself, he did discuss the issue of fighter pay in MMA and how to go about fixing it.

“It’s hard. I don’t know the depth of the whole lawsuit and I didn’t go into it yet – and I have to go into it because of Inside MMA,” Rutten told Submission Radio. “I’m going to probably have to talk about it somewhere in the New Year – but you know everybody always wants more money. The top guys, they get well paid. They have a good manager, they get a cut of the Pay Per View, and then it’s up to you. If you can sell a fight and you’re gonna have a lot of Pay Per View buys, then you’re going to make more money. Sometimes the lighter weights, they’re complaining and they say “yeah some lightweights, they simply don’t pull in the Pay Per View numbers”. You know, if they pull in 200,000 pay per view numbers, compared to a [Daniel] Cormier and [Jon] Jones – they’re going to probably go over a million in January because of the whole thing that happened before.”

When discussing the top fighters, who are featured on the richer end of the spectrum, Rutten believes it is a matter of marketing the fight that will lead to increased pay.

“You see, those guys are making money, and the other guys are making less now. And I’m not going to say you’re going to have to attack your opponent at the weigh-ins and all that stuff, but I say that you have to sell the fight. You have to start doing something that people are going to be interested to watch that fight; to say “oh my god these guys have bad blood” or whatever. Whatever angle you can find, and hopefully it’s a real angle like a Jones and Cormier. Then people will tune in. So it kind of depends on the fighters. And if they don’t pull it in, then that’s too bad. Then hopefully the money is going to raise the basic money.

“But I believe they all have about – I don’t know what it is. I think it’s about 250,000 dollars it’s basic money, and some maybe 500,000 like a Jones. I think, I never looked into that – But everyone really makes their money with the pay per view buys.”

However, this is not to suggest that all fighters are offered that opportunity to market themselves on Pay-Per-View. With 550 fighters on the roster, many find themselves stuck on undercards for the duration of their run with the promotion – a position that has little financial stability

“Do fighters get underpaid? Of course. I always say that. And I will always say that until everybody starts to make really good money. Because there are still fighters they simple can’t live from the money that they make. And then they need to fight at least four times a year, which is also not going to happen, you know? So if you only have like two fights and you’re a beginning fighter, and you only make like 10,000 and 10,000 or something even less. Well good luck with that. If it’s 40,000 dollars a year; I don’t know if people know what training costs, and getting good people in, and paying your management, and paying your trainer. Boom. That’s 20 percent gone right there. So now it’s only 32,000 from 40,000 dollars. Oh well the taxes are going to come. Ok you can write some things off, but you can’t live on that.”

With that in mind, Rutten believes that since most fighters require sponsorship income to stay afloat, the Reebok deal will be beneficial to UFC fighters as a whole.

“So most of the time that money [to live off] comes also from sponsors. You know the sponsor deal actually from Reebook that’s coming up, that sounds really promising to me; you know 70 million. All that money is gonna be spread out amongst the fighters. Of course some fighters get more because they’re more popular. They have this popularity scale, I don’t know how to call it any different. And that’s how they’re going to see, ‘this guy gets so much, that guy gets so much’. But it’s a lot of money 70 million dollars. And spread out over – I don’t know how many fighters they have. 700 or something? – it’s still a lot of money.”

Transcription taken from Submission Radio.

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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