Outside of UFC 142, one of the hot button topics last week was ESPN's Outside The Lines doing an investigative piece on UFC fighter pay. Aggressive reaction and a promise of a counterstrike from UFC President Dana White came quickly as ESPN is apparently back on his bad side.
The segment ran, a panel discussion followed and the consensus (among social media anyway) was that it was a good, interesting piece but not exactly damning of the UFC. In reality, the tone, numbers and the feel was in the written companion feature that debuted earlier this week. Yahoo's Dave Meltzer recapped the issues last week, as he as interviewed for the feature but wasn't used in the final cut.
John Barr was the journalist in the nine minute opening segment that focused heavily on Zuffa co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, crediting him and brother Frank with the revival of the UFC. Fertitta was asked about an MMA monopoly, which he said is ridiculous. Enter Ken Shamrock who is not in the good graces of the UFC, who essentially said that it is. Promoter/manager Monte Cox explained that he has to take what the UFC gives his fighters and that only the fighters who "fight through the gauntlet and get to the top" get paid.
Fertitta was asked about why fighters are scared to come out and talk publicly to which he explained that anyone can say what they want and there's no retribution. He said they've paid out $250 million to fighters and made 39 millionaires. The piece then shifted focus to the entry level fighters and the graduating scale for their first three fights (ex. $6000 show/$6000 win for opening fights), explaining that the scale is better than what some boxers get but not close to the four major league sports.
The real crux of the story was the focus on how much of the organization's revenues goes toward the fighters. Fertitta didn't give an exact number, but said it was in the "neighborhood" of 50% like the four major sports. This was disputed in the panel discussion that followed the segment with some estimating that number to be around 10%. The discretionary bonuses were covered in full with a claim by an unnamed fighter that you have to "kiss ass" to get them.
At no point was health insurance brought up, nor was marketing/promotional/event expenses which would have made the story a bit more well rounded. For the full video and what happened during the OTL panel discussion, join us after the jump.
The panel discussion (not yet available online) featured host Bob Ley, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Ricco Rodriguez, ESPN reporter Josh Gross and Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association' head Rob Maysey. Ley brought up some of the angry comments that White had on Twitter and that White declined to be on the show.
Ley asked Rodriguez about his past dealings with White to which Rodriguez said that his conflicts about pay with White are a major reason he's not in the UFC. He talked about having to fight in other countries and organizations to make money, but didn't come across bitter. Rather, he seemed resigned to the situation at hand.
Maysey looked nervous and didn't add much to the discussion, while Gross reiterated a lot of the points he and Barr made in the online story. However, he did bring up some positives like how White and Fertitta made a private donation to Dan Miller's efforts to get a kidney transplant for his son.
Will this cause sweeping change or some sort of uprising? It's doubtful as most hardcore fans will simply shrug because a lot of the info was already known and unless mainstream journalists start to point to the issue, the casual fans won't care either.
Watch the video and comment below about what you think about all of this. Is White overreacting? Do you care about fighter pay? Was this an attack job by ESPN or simply a good journalistic piece?