ESPN Fighter Pay Saga: Is UFC Business Model Good for MMA?

Over the last week or so the MMA community has been rocked by a hard hitting ESPN expose about fighter pay. OK, in reality the MMA community has struggled to care about a short, slightly one-sided but nevertheless thoughtful piece about fighter pay and the UFC has kept it in the news by banging on about how unfair it is.

Now to summarise the video. ESPN basically made a piece that asks whether the UFC remunerates its fighters fairly, featuring clips from an interview with Lorenzo Fertita. They more or less answer that no they do not, they could pay more to the lower tier fighters. The piece also makes a clear accusation that UFC fighters are not free to talk about pay or unionizing for fear of reprisals, but are given the opportunity to very clearly deny that this is true.

So far so not particularly contraversial. Following the release of a preview and article about the piece, Dana White stated that the UFC would release their own taping of the full interview. They did that, as well as a response to the video including interviews with some of their most loyal fighters backing them up.

By now most people's interest had been pricked, not really because the story was so exciting (labour disputes are pretty common in sports and this was nowhere near even a dispute, just some hushed reports of minor grumblings) but because it is always fun to see Dana White over excited. The UFC followed that up with a video of the full interview with Lorenzo Fertita.

Lorenzo Fertitta Interview - Uncut (via UFC)

The video is pretty long, but I watched it all and found it quite interesting as Fertita defends the UFC as behaving like a 'good business' and being 'what America is all about'. The UFC is run very successfully as a business, with a focus on the marketability of fighters and performance related pay. This business model is without doubt great for the UFC, but is the UFC's business model good for MMA as a sport?

I would be really interested to see what people think about bonuses and incentives for fighters (rather than a steadier rate of pay) and also about how entertainment often overrides the sporting side of the organisation (when people like John Fitch are held back and people like Brock Lesnar are pushed on).

I have written a longer piece discussing this on my blog at

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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