I've always been cynical of overly cheerful analysis, because it generally throws one thing out the window - logic. "Economics? Reality of fighter pay in MMA? Understanding Zuffa's promotional structure? We fans and writers don't need to care about that!" My first piece on the issue was totally overdramatic, but it was designed to be that way. The tempering of fan hysteria is something I've always been a fan of, so that's why I wrote the piece. This one will be much less dramatic, but not much different in content because - surprise! - people are still ignoring simple facts and simple reality. It seems like most people are saying a variation of "Everything's gonna be great!"
No it's not.
The great thing about this type of platform is the multitude of opinions that we can throw out, giving the reader the ability to make up their own mind after absorbing many different people's views on things. In particular, a few ideas are being promoted as positives or things that are likely to happen, and they're really not realistic at all. Namely - fighter pay, the idea of a UFC channel, and a possible fighter union. Let's examine a few and try to get to the bottom of some points.
Fighter pay will improve under the MMA=Zuffa system! - Why on earth would people think this? Three things have ultimately controlled the general salary of a fighter in MMA - the overall health of the company the fighter is negotiating with, the merits and relative value of the fighter to the company the fighter is negotiating with, and...the ability for that fighter to leverage the bidding for his services between two or more suitors. The latter two being the ones in question here. No competition means no choice for fighters, and a major loss of negotiating power for them.. Zuffa can just say "Take this amount, or..." and there is no "or" anymore. Clearly the regionals aren't paying enough for guys to live off of comfortably. And then there's the WEC.
I always find it funny that people think Dana did the WEC fighters a favor by bringing them over the UFC so they can finally get the riches and recognition they deserve, seemingly ignoring that Zuffa was the one cutting all these guys checks for years before this as well. WEC salaries were kept so low that fighters had trouble training full-time because they couldn't afford to. Why? Well, it's a combination of the three things mentioned above. The WEC was ran as a separate company that didn't generate a ton of revenue. The top fighters weren't huge draws anyway, so they weren't worth hundreds of thousands. And...for FW's and BW's, there was no competition for their services, especially in North America. And no one's promoting them anywhere else even now, so the expectation of a blow-up in salaries isn't realistic, even with Zuffa's revenue stream.
Make no mistake about it - this purchase isn't a good day for fighters in general. While pay might not go down, it's certainly not going to go up appreciably anytime soon. Zuffa holds all the cards. They don't release info on how much they make, they are now the sole relevant evaluator of a fighters value, and there isn't any other place for a fighter to turn to if they want to make a living. In effect, Zuffa has fighters by the balls, and purchases like this only tighten the grip.
The idea that all the Pride guys were well off after the Pride sale is a myth too - here's Joachim Hansen on why he never came over to the UFC in the aftermath, for example.
Have you spoken to the UFC at all?
Hellboy: "They offered me a fight some months ago – I wasn’t sure if they had bought Pride for what the hell was going on. They offered me a fight against Marcus Aurelio, they offered me half the salary of what I got in Pride. Obviously at the time they had already bought Pride, in my opinion they also bought my contract, so how can they offer me half the salary?
Too much funny things going on, I don’t really want to play games so you know, I’m out in the cold and I’ll make the best out of the situation with kickboxing, boxing and other stuff – and hopefully I’ll be signing a new contract with another organisation, maybe Cage Rage, Heroes or something, I don’t know… and I’ll try to get back on track again."
You can finish reading this little ball of realism over on HKL, where I discuss why you won't see a UFC Channel or a fighter union anytime soon.