Aljamain Sterling responds to Michael Chandler’s privileged view of UFC fighter pay

Michael Chandler recently offered his opinion about UFC fighter pay. Chandler’s view on how the promotion pays — and his attitude about those who…

By: Trent Reinsmith | 1 year ago
Aljamain Sterling responds to Michael Chandler’s privileged view of UFC fighter pay
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Michael Chandler recently offered his opinion about UFC fighter pay. Chandler’s view on how the promotion pays — and his attitude about those who come from what he called “the lower rungs of society” — was misguided, at best.

The former Bellator champion, who joined the UFC in 2020 with a record of 21-5, a great deal of experience, and a high-level of name recognition in MMA circles, took an approach to the discussion of pay and opportunities that failed to consider that his experiences in life and in sports might not be the same as others.

Current UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling recently offered a poignant and much more representative counterpoint to Chandler’s view of fighter pay — and perhaps Chandler’s life experiences.

“Once he looks at it from a different perspective, I think he would change what he was saying,” Sterling said on his YouTube channel via MMA Fighting). “But him saying Dana White had 10,000 sleepless nights, Michael Chandler, you’ve been competing since you were out of the womb pretty much. What about all your sleepless nights of training, cutting weight? What about all the other fighters training, cutting weight? You can’t say all we do is go to the gym, train, sleep and repeat. Some of us have second jobs. I had a second job all the way through my career until after I beat ‘Tanquino’ [Augusto Mendes], after two split decision losses, where I thought I was potentially going to lose my job. I have a college degree. I would have been potentially making more money doing that in the beginning of my career if I had just stuck to that and I’d have been making more money than what I was making if I had just stuck to fighting.

“I came into the UFC at eight and eight, $8,000 to win, $8,000 to show. So if step on the scale, I show up, and I step into the octagon, I make $8,000. Before taxes, before expenses, just to get to the fight, travel expenses, all that, food, equipment, we’re not talking about any of that included. Then I make another $8,000 if I win. Now, minus pay for coaches… five percent to [coach] Ray [Longo], five percent to [coach] Matt [Serra], 10 percent to management, then I pay taxes on whatever’s left, what I keep. … My second fight is 10 and 10, my third fight is 12 and 12, the last fight on my contract is 14 and 14.

“Now, you guys do the math. I’d have been making $56,000 starting, in Long Island [New York], as a physical education teacher, plus benefits, plus a retirement. So when you weigh that out, for Michael Chandler to say fighters just wake up, train, go to sleep, that’s kind of like, do you not value what you bring to the table for your bosses?

“This is not to disrespect Dana. I’m not trying to get into a fighter pay thing, but bro, you can’t say there’s no issue with the fighter pay because you’re sitting at the cream of the crop. Like, right now, I’m good. I’m the top. I’m getting paid pretty damn well at this point. It’s still underpaid from what it could be, based on the numbers that have shown what the revenue split is between the fighters and the bosses.”

Sterling said he made $400,000 (before taxes and before he paid his coaches and expenses for fight camp) for his most recent fight, which he went into as the defending UFC champion.

Sterling, the current UFC bantamweight champ, has been with the UFC since 2014. His record with the promotion is 13-3. He has wins in seven straight fights, including his two most recent bouts – both title fights.

“My whole point is, Michael Chandler, you can’t say that,” Sterling added. “You’re in a different position. If you came in making what these guys are making and had to grind your way up, I could respect you saying that, but you kind of came in with a silver spoon, and the Dana White privilege . … I’m not saying you didn’t earn your stripes, I’m just saying in terms of fighter pay, you’re not in a position to talk about it because you came in one of the most highest paid guys when you came over from Bellator. That is not the same as what the guys who come in, like a Paddy Pimblett, super popular, probably just as popular as Michael Chandler, and getting paid peanuts.”

The question that begs to be answered now is if Chandler will — or can — as Sterling said, look at things from a different perspective.

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About the author
Trent Reinsmith
Trent Reinsmith

Trent Reinsmith is a freelance writer based out of Baltimore, MD. He has been covering sports for more than 15 years, with a focus on MMA for most of that time. Trent focuses on the day-to-day business of MMA — both inside and outside the cage — for Bloody Elbow.

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