Very few people have been seen as much of MMA’s growth from the dark ages to the present like UFC commentator Joe Rogan. Given the uncertainty of trying times in unfamiliar territory, he’s been as surprised as the rest of us with the directions that things have gone in with the sport.
The conversation is shifting from safety concerns to more elite fighters complaining about what they deem to be unfair practices, and what can almost certainly be classified as undeniable in their complaints surrounding fighter pay. Rogan has also been keen to share his thoughts on this topic as well.
On his Joe Rogan Experience podcast, the longtime broadcast voice addressed the qualms that certain fighters — especially those at the top — have aired recently. (Transcription courtesy of MMAFighting)
“Right now in particular, there is probably less money because there is no live gate, and that’s an extreme amount of money,” Rogan said. “But there’s also fighters that agree to certain deals. They agree to like, an 8-fight deal at X amount per fight, and then they become more popular and then they want to renegotiate their deal, and the UFC is like, ‘Look, we’re just trying to stay open. We’re not going to renegotiate anything. You can take it or you can leave it, but this is what it is.’ I think it’s a matter of that.”
Rogan appears to echo the sentiments expressed by UFC president Dana White here, but as detailed by BloodyElbow’s own John Nash, the UFC isn’t really losing money. In fact, a Moody’s report indicates that they’re just not making as much as they would have, but are still able to operate and remain profitable due to their TV and online income.
As far as contract renegotiation, that may not always be an option for certain fighters even if they’re fighting for a title. Besides, Dana White himself proudly declared that 2019 was the most successful year in the history of the organization. We can only speculate on what each fighter makes, but all available measures lead to the conclusion that the split for fighters — 17% of the revenue by UFC’s own targets — is far lower than it perhaps ought to be.
Rogan also posits that the fact that at least those that are under contract can fight and earn their money instead of waiting at home without any income.
“It’s not a monopoly in that you do have choices, but there’s one clear, top of the food chain choice. But it’s because they do it the best,” Rogan said. “They’re also the only ones that are having fights during this quarantine. The only people that are putting on any live sporting events, but they’re also part of a company in WME that’s hurting, really, really bad. So there’s not a lot of money to throw around. To keep the doors open, to keep people employed, a lot of money is missing. All these shows got cancelled, there’s all these audience members that aren’t gonna be there, that aren’t buying tickets, so it’s tricky. So this is why I think they’re complaining about fighter pay.”
As noted above, the UFC itself isn’t hurting for cash due to their distribution deals and PPV revenue, especially with the surprise success of UFC 249, both on the prelims and the PPV projections. The complaints are stemming from the fact that fighters like Jon Jones are disgruntled as far as his career earnings go, and Henry Cejudo explicitly cited that a return to MMA would only be possible if the money is way more than what it’s been up until now — and he was a dual champion.
But at least Rogan agrees that fighters should be making more overall given the risks and the hard life that a fighter leads.
“I think they should get paid more. I think everybody should get paid more,” Rogan said. “I think it’s a crazy way to make a living. I think you should get the most amount of money you can possibly get. But it’s also a business and I think that if they are struggling as much as I think they are – I don’t talk finances with them but I know that WME, the people who own it, are hurting, bad. They’re laying people off. Most businesses are hurting and all the entertainment businesses are f*cked. . . So what do they do? That’s what I think. But when it comes to me as a human that likes fighting, I know f*cking dangerous that sh*t is. You should get paid an incredibly generous amount of money to step into a cage fight for millions of people to see. “
It’s good that he sees that fighters should absolutely earn more, and we can’t guess how in tune with the day to day operations he is. By his own admission, he’s not aware of finances, but once you take a glance at those, it’s clear that there’s a major disparity and the UFC could pay more without being anywhere near going broke.
Since he uses his podcast as a platform to have fighters and coaches speak freely on many subjects, it could just be a matter of time before a fighter shows up as a guest and clears the air on the matter.
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