Nate Quarry Interview, Full Transcript

Former UFC middleweight contender, Nate Quarry discusses fighter pay, sponsorships, uniforms, and more in this in depth interview.

A day ago, I interviewed Nate Quarry immediately following his captivating post on the UG forum. He was very expansive in his answers and I felt it could not be done justice with just one feature, so I released the first article this morning, and am releasing the entire transcript for our readers with this post. Many thanks to my amazing co-host and all around BFF, Iain Kidd for the transcript help.

Steph Daniels: What made you come out and make your comments on the UG?

Nate Quarry: Honestly, I didn't think it was that controversial when I wrote it. IT was just some things that had been on my mind. Recently there's been this talk about occupy Wall St. and rising up against the one percent, but then when you hear fighters saying, ‘We would like to be paid more,' everybody piles on the fighters, ‘Oh, you guys don't know how lucky you are. You got paid $50,000 for 15 minutes work, I'd do that for half that much.' I'm sitting there going, ‘Yeah, but you suck. Nobody would pay to watch you fight.' Would you dedicate ten, fifteen, twenty years of your life to becoming one of the world's best at anything, and then tell your employers, ‘I want to do it for free. I'm going to go ahead and work as a bouncer on the weekends and I don't care about making money.'

No. No one is like that. Fighters deserve to be compensated, and it's well past time that they started making money. I done an interview talking about fighter pay when guys join the UFC. Right now, it's completely written in the UFC's best interests, and to some extent it should be; Dana White and the Fertitta's are the ones who made this happen and put up all the money. But it's well past the time [fighters start making good money].

In just about any sport out there, if you sign into professional football or baseball, or anything like that, if for whatever reason it doesn't work out, they're not just kicked to the curb; they have to have their contract fulfilled. To the tune of millions of dollars. Whereas with the UFC, you can sign a three or five fight contract and it doesn't mean anything. They can fire you after one fight that they don't like. Gerald Harris was fired after having incredible knockout of the night performances. Then he has one lacklustre performance, and he's kicked to the curb. When there's nowhere else to go, I really think that's a huge disadvantage to the fighters.

I would like to see, especially when guys join the UFC, a three fight no-cut contract, with a minimum starting wage of $10,000 to show for all three fights. Your win bonus is $5k, $7.5k and $10k and you have those three fights in one year. That way, you know that at a minimum you're making $30,000 for one year's worth of fights. It's tough. That's close to poverty wages, but it at least gives a fighter some consistency; knowing that they're going to have a job for at least a year.

Nobody wants to show up at work knowing if they have an off day they're going to be fired.

Right now it's $8,000 to show, and you can get cut after your first fight. I was told by an executive that coming to fight in the UFC is like moving to Hollywood. Everybody moves to Hollywood with these big dreams of being famous, but very few people do. I thought, ‘Wow. What a horrible metaphor for the UFC.' Because anyone can move to Hollywood. The UFC should be more exclusive than that. If you're just viewing fights like, ‘Eh, he had one fight and he didn't do very well.' It's not an exclusive club anymore.

I would love to see the stats on how many guys have fought in the UFC, and how many of them have UFC records of 0-1. To stay in the UFC right now is really what means something. To get to the UFC? Not so much, because so many people have done it. If you had that three fight no-cut contract, you're going to have fighters who are focusing purely on fighting, not working second jobs bouncing or bartending. Plus, they'll feel safe in their job. Nobody wants to show up at work knowing if they have an off day they're going to be fired.

For the most part, the UFC is really good with that. Most of the time, they don't just fire somebody for a single bad performance, but it does happen on occasion. I think this would really make them a lot more careful about who they sign. The fighters are also given a chance to build a fanbase, because the fans will see the guy for an entire year, as opposed to, ‘Who is this guy?' and then he's gone.

Even with The Ultimate Fighter, I would love to see them go back and do something like the comeback season again. There's eight men's weight classes in the UFC, so they could do two weight classes per season and two seasons per year. That would let them bring in some top contenders. By the time they get through the season, you get to know the fighters, which was the whole thing that saved the UFC in the first place. Watching fights is cool, but if you don't know who the guys are, you don't care about them.

I feel that's what happened with Barao. Now we've been given a chance to get to know him a little bit more, but there was a time he had fought three or four times in the UFC on the undercard and prelims, and then suddenly he's fighting for a title and nobody knows who he is. The comeback show would give everybody a chance to get to know these up and coming fighters and feel their passion. We're not a bunch of idiot, knucklehead fighters. We're guys with families and motivation to really make something happen for us and our families.

Steph Daniels: The vibe I got is that the UFC kind of chews you up and spits you out; it's a bit of a meat grinder. Am I correct in that?

Nate Quarry: Hmm... I don't know that I would call it a meat grinder. I would call it a business, and businesses exist to make money. If a business doesn't make money, it goes out of business and then the employers and the employees are out of business. So making money has to be the way things are done, but I think that there are better ways to handle the fighters and deal with these things.

Five minutes ago, GSP was the greatest champion ever, and now he's a coward and a loser

I'm kind of a minutae kind of guy. I like to know my efforts are being appreciated, and quite often they are, but as soon as someone has a dissenting viewpoint about the UFC Dana White is immediately working to discredit them.

Five minutes ago, GSP was the greatest champion ever, and now he's a coward and a loser, and nobody should ever listen to him. He's said that over and over again about every single guy that you don't like, and it gets tiring. People in MMA look at Dana like, ‘Man, he really speaks his mind. That's great.' Well, what if he was speaking that way about you? What if that was your boss? What if you had some concerns or some questions? Dana said, ‘Well he should have been a man and talked to me face to face.' What's that going to accomplish? Is Dana going to say, ‘That's great, let's sit down and have a reasonable dialogue.' Or is he going to tell him, ‘F you. You don't know what the F you're talking about.'

I can't reinforce enough, and I hope that this is one of the main messages that comes across, the UFC, and specifically Dana White, altered my life in such fundamentally amazing, awesome ways that I could never repay them. I would do anything if Dana White called me up and asked me to do something.

Look at the UFC videogame. Dana was bragging about how the UFC sold two million copies of that game. I didn't get a dime out of it. None of the fighters I know got a dime out of it, but we signed away our rights. When I was on The Ultimate Fighter we were handed the contract and I thought to myself, ‘This is a great opportunity.' I realized that they didn't have any of us under contract; just the winners. I was thinking, ‘This is great, everybody is looking out for me [by giving me a contract]' So I signed it. I didn't realize I signed away all my likeness rights.

I don't have the right to use any of the photos from any of my fights. I can't use any of their videos in any way, shape or form. It's things like that you look at and think, ‘Wouldn't that increase the UFC fanbase, and give publicity and raise awareness?' We just did an armed forces entertainment tour, and we asked if we could the UFC logo on the sheets promoting UFC fighters appearing to support the troops. The answer was no. No you can't use that logo. I understand that they want to control their likeness rights, but is that not going a little overboard?

I've had my coaches told to take the word UFC off your website, because it says, ‘Training of UFC star Nate Quarry.' They're told to take that logo off of the website, or they'll be getting a call from the UFC lawyers. Isn't there enough success going around that the UFC can share it?

Steph Daniels: Do you think that there's any realistic chance of a fighters union or association?

Nate Quarry: I don't think a fighters union is even remotely possible. I think it would take something like a major class action lawsuit. That could come in time; I wouldn't be surprised if there was on in the next 5-10 years, because there will be so many guys retiring with nothing. They'll see that they did all this work and have nothing to show for it.

In football there was a something like a half-billion dollar lawsuit to help players with brain trauma. In the UFC's 20 year retrospective they said, ‘We put gloves on the fighters to make it look better. We know it's going to cause more concussion and more damage.' I think some craft lawyer will come along and want to do something similar for the UFC and get these guys paid a little bit.

I always make a reference to my title fight against Franklin. I ask people, ‘What do you think a title fight main event, in the MGM Grand on Pay-Per-View will get you?' People usually guess about a million dollars. I got paid $10,000. No Bonus, no nothing. When I lost, I went back to my original contract of $5,000 to show and $5,000 to win. People are shocked by that. They can't even comprehend it. I didn't know any better. My representation was Team Quest. None of those guys knew how to even read a contract, let alone negotiate one.

There are laws in place to protect boxers from that. To protect guys that have signed away all their rights. I think that will come in time for MMA. But when the owners of the UFC are the owners of the biggest non-union gaming casino, there's no way that they're going to buckle to a fighters union without putting up a fight.

When you see the UFC sponsoring certain fighters like Jon Jones, that is clearly a conflict of interest, because the UFC has the deepest pockets, and they can say, ‘We're going to give this fighter $100,000 to put this UFC logo on his shorts.' That allows that fighter to get better training and bring in the best coaches. I'm just shocked that's not covered more.

Even Dana White saying he was going pay Mike Dolce to work with Cyborg so she could make weight against Ronda Rousey. I love Mike Dolce, but that's another clear conflict of interest, all designed around what will be the biggest Pay-Per-View fight that will make the UFC the most money. It's like the NBA saying, ‘We'll make a lot more money if we have the Lakers in the finals, so we'll pay out $1million to make sure the Lakers have the best trainers in the league.' All of the other teams would completely freak out, but if somebody under contract with the UFC was to say that, they would get that call. ‘You need to shut up, you don't know what you're talking about. This is the way things are done and if you don't like it, here's the door.'

I've already been told no before when I asked for tickets to fights. I was told that I was an asshole because I'm not a company man.

I've spoken to many athletes after they've had a slip of the tongue and said their thoughts, and they get that call. I was discussing something like this with a UFC heavyweight over email, and he emailed me later and said, ‘Please, you've got to delete those messages. I'm so paranoid; if they were to get out there, it would be the end of my career.'

That's what the fighters are going through. Fortunately now, there's Bellator and the WSOF and other places. I love the UFC and what they've done for me, but I just feel it's time for them to give back to the fighters a little bit more.

Like when cornering a fighter. If you corner somebody at the Palms, the fighter gets to use the gym for free, but the cornermen have to pay to use the gym. I'm in there helping my fighter cut weight, but I have to pay a fee to use the gym. I mean really? Is that money going to make or break the UFC or the Palms? They couldn't just say, ‘Hey, we've got sixteen fighters coming in for this event, they each get three extra passes to use the gym for the week?' Is that such a big deal to the UFC? It is for the guys making $8,000 to show.

You get one flight for the fighter, and one flight for a corner man. How often do you see just one corner man? It's at least two, generally three or four. That means this fighter is now paying out of pocket to bring his doctor out to help him rehydrate, his kickboxing coach and his jiu-jitsu coach. Then you have the 20% of the purse that goes back to the gym itself.

When I came back after my back surgery, they were putting me back on $5,000 to show and $5,000 to win, and I told them I just couldn't do that. So they bumped me up to $10,000/$10,000 and I fought Kalib Starnes and Pete Sell for that pay. Then I called them up and I said, ‘I can't do this. You're paying me so little and I have a little girl I'm trying to put through college. There's so much wear and tear on my body for such little money that I'd be better off doing just about anything else.'

They gave me a raise, which was much appreciated, and at the end of my career I was happy with the money that I was making. It wasn't bench riding NBA player money, but it was better than I ever expected, and I was very grateful for it. But I'm the kind of guy that... I'm not quiet when I see things that could or should be better. Now that I'm retired I can say these things. I've already been told no before when I asked for tickets to fights. I was told that I was an asshole because I'm not a company man.

If anything, I just hope to generate a dialogue and some publicity. Dana White doesn't care what I have to say. I was never a big player in the UFC. I like to think that I made a difference when I was on TUF. People saw me as someone that wasn't just a lug-head. Even though I wasn't able to fight on TUF, I had people coming up to me and telling me that they were a fan of the way I conducted myself. I know through my other works I brought in so many fans to the UFC that are not your stereotypical fight fans.

When I was fighting, I would have surgeons fly in to watch me fight because of my work with NuVasive. My goal has always been to do the right thing, and now that I'm not longer fighting with the UFC, I want to kind of spread the word and help make a better career for those coming after me.

Steph Daniels: Do you think the guys in the top 10 get a fair wage?

Nate Quarry: It all comes down to perspective. What is a fair wage? If you go to any job and apply and say, ‘I want $10,000 per year,' well you to generate $50,000 to get given that. If you compare it to any other MMA organisation in the world, I believe the UFC has the highest paid guys. They can easily pay guys less because there's no real competition. Where are you going to go?

The closest thing you could compare UFC pay to would be boxing. In a title fight in boxing, the low level guys are getting $5 million or $10 million. The good guys are $20 million or $30 million. So compared to boxing, I'd say probably not if you're looking at the percentage of income or profits being distributed to the fighters. If you compare it to any other sports league like the NFL, the NBA or anything like that, I don't think the percentage that goes out to the athletes comes anywhere close to those leagues.

Steph Daniels: As a fighter, what is your opinion on the offer that Bellator gave to Gilbert Melendez? It's rumored to be something like $200k per fight, a $25k signing bonus, a percentage of PPV points and a role in a movie.

Nate Quarry: I think that's great. That's an organization clearly saying, ‘This fighter has value. They're going to bring value and legitimacy to our organization and we want to reward that.' When I worked for Spike TV on MMA Uncensored, they would probably tell you I was a little in shock, because they were so good to me. It was ridiculous. I had back surgery and they sent me get well gifts. They support my comic book, Zombie Cagefighter. All of these things that really made me feel appreciated. I'm still calling them asking, ‘Hey, do you have any other roles for me? I'd love to work for you guys.'

That's how it is anywhere you feel appreciated and valued. I talk to guys who tell me that the company they're at doesn't pay as much as competitors, but they are treated with respect and they enjoy being there.

I really believe that the contracts are most likely completely illegal.

I believe Bellator are moving towards Pay-Per-View. They're moving in that direction by signing these big fighters, and they could have something where they have tournament winners and title fights [on a card]. I think it's something that will come to fruition and will be amazing.

The biggest thing is always competition. Do you have competition for your product? If not, you can charge whatever you want. If you look at the history o baseball and basketball, it wasn't until there was free agents and players could go from team to team that the wages started to go up. In the UFC just now, all of the fighters are independent contractors, but that doesn't mean anything, because they can't go to Bellator or the WSOF. I really believe that the contracts are most likely completely illegal. That's just my uneducated thoughts, but I don't think you could prove that in a court of law unless you've got really, really deep pockets.

Steph Daniels: Do you agree with only getting PPV points if you're a champ?

Nate Quarry: No, I don't. I think that the bookkeepers for the UFC could clearly show what amount of Pay-Per-View coming in was profit. So if, say, 20% of the money coming in was clear profit that goes into the bank account and gets distributed to the owners and executives, they could clearly say, ‘Of that 20%, let's give five or ten percent to the fighters to be divvied up.' So your champions would get their separate cut, and the guys fighting on the card now have a reason to boost viewership for the card. Just now? They do some, but they're not calling their local TV station like, ‘Hey, I'm fighting on this card.'

It's very much like making an appearance for the UFC at one of the MMA trade shows or something. The UFC doesn't pay anybody. So, you can either go sit at the UFC booth for a few hours and not get paid, or you can go work for some clothing company and make a couple of grand. That's why I was never really bothered when the UFC didn't ask me to do that stuff. The one time they did was in Portland, my hometown, and it was a mess. I won't go into it, but I didn't get any compensation from it. If it had been anybody else, I would have said, ‘This is your business, you're doing this to make money, so I need to be compensated for my time.'

With the UFC it's kind of like, ‘Hey body, why don't you go and do this?' Well, I'd really like to get paid. ‘Oh, you're not a company man. We'll mark that on your file.'

Steph Daniels: Do you think it's disingenuous of the UFC to say dozens of guys get PPV points, when in reality you usually only get them if you're the defending champion.

Nate Quarry: That's another thing the guys don't know. I didn't even know that until it was explained to me by a former champ. It comes down to how much you appreciate the guys who are working for you. Dana is famous for tipping his wait staff at the restaurants tens of thousands of dollars, so it would be better for your long term career to serve Dana drinks than it would be to fight for him.

The UFC generally pays all of its fighters a bonus after the fight, which is great, but in my last fight my whole face was shattered, and I came out and fought the second round knowing my face was shattered. But as I sat there on the stool I said, ‘This is your job. You signed up to fight. You are not going to quit on your stool. If you do, you will be a coward until you die. You are going to get up and fight.' That's my job, it's what I was paid for. After that, I had major reconstructive surgery. I had thirteen screws and titanium mesh in the side of my face.

A couple of months after my surgery I got a call from the UFC. I see the caller ID and I'm thinking they're calling to see how my surgery went and to see when I'm ready to fight again. The phone call was very curt. It said, ‘You had surgery after your last fight. This phone call is to let you know that until you are released by your doctor to fight again, your contract has been put on hold. Thank you.'

It wasn't, ‘Thank you for coming out in the second round after your face was shattered.' Or, ‘How are you doing? I saw those pictures on Facebook, that was pretty devastating.' It was very business-like. When you treat it like it's all about business and all about money, why would you be surprised when fighters react that way?

Steph Daniels: Do you think the UFC should institute something to help cover the cost of training camps?

Nate Quarry: No, I don't think the UFC should pay for anything as far as training camps go. I think they should pay enough that that's not an issue. It's my job to train and get the best training. The more money the UFC pays to the fighter, the better the fighters they're going to have. I've known plenty of guys who have said, ‘It's so embarrassing that I'm bartending between fights just to get by.' If they're not working as bartenders, how much better prepared would they be for their fights? The fans would get better fights, and the fighters would feel more comfortable.

People generally don't perform well when they're scared for their jobs. They want to know that their jobs are secure. That even if they have an off night, they're safe, because the company cares for them.

Again, Dana White really came through with me for my back surgery. It was phenomenal. I went to him and said, ‘I'm in so much pain. I can't train and I don't know what to do. I can't afford to even go to the doctor and find out what's wrong.' He said, ‘Go ahead and go, we'll take care of it, whatever it is,' and he did. But the point is, if I had been paid more than $10,000 for a fight that had a gate of $3.5million-which at the time was the third highest gate in UFC history-would I have been able to pay for my own surgery? Probably.

Steph Daniels: How do you feel about the UFC telling sponsors if they sponsor a UFC fighter, they can't sponsor fighters in other organizations?

Nate Quarry: That's... That's just horrible. There's got to be a legal precedent showing that's not legally allowed. Just like saying, ‘you're an independent contractor, but you can't work anywhere else,' that cannot be legal in my opinion. Telling companies that... It just kills the fighters, and it shows that the UFC is all about the UFC. It doesn't care about building your brand.

When I started fighting it was so much more accepting. When I was sponsored by And1, it was such a big story. No fighter had ever been sponsored by a big shoe company like that. It was front page news on MSNBC.com. You can't buy a story like that. How much exposure did that get the UFC? Well, a year later they passed the rules about acceptable sponsors, and sponsors now have to pay a fee to the UFC for the privilege of sponsoring a fighter.

And1 called me and said, ‘We're sponsoring you, not the UFC. They have plenty of money. Our budget doesn't allow us to pay $50,000 to the UFC.' So after that, I lost my And1 sponsorship. That would be like you working for me, and someone wanting to give you $10, and me saying, ‘No, you can't take that. You work for me. You cannot have that money.' It doesn't affect me at all if I let you have that money.

I spoke to Bjorn Rebney about this a while back, and asked his thoughts on fees for sponsorships. He shook his head and said, ‘We will never do that. That is just ridiculous. It just kills everyone.' Now organizations allow someone like me with Zombie Cagefighter to sponsor guys. I don't have $50,000 to put my logo on a shirt that's really not going to bring in any t-shirt sales for me. I just couldn't do it.

Now with Bellator, I can pay someone a reasonable amount of money and save $50,000. I may not be getting UFC 100 PPV numbers of viewers, but it's still pretty good, and it helps the fighters out. Not only does it increase my brand awareness, but it also gets the fighters some money that help them in their training camps.

I can't tell you how many times a sponsor called me and said, ‘Hey, I just want to support you.' Even Mask from Tapout. One time at the UFC when I was recovering from surgery, he put his arm around me and goes, ‘I'm going to send you a box of gear. Throw it away, piss on it, wear it, sell it, whatever you want to do. I know you're having a hard time right now, and I want to support you.' I was told by a former agent of mine that sponsors are either doing this for brand awareness, or because they love the game and they just want to be a part of it and support a fighter.

The best way to get UFC coverage is to either talk trash, because they really know how to market that, or fail a drug test and be very apologetic about it.

Steph Daniels: What do you think of this announcement that UFC fighters will be wearing a uniform? They'll be wearing a hat, a shirt and shorts. I read somewhere that there will be a small area designated for sponsors, a small square on the shorts.

Nate Quarry: Once again, that's just completely screwing over the fighters. I was making more money from sponsors than I was from fighting, quite often. To take that away... You're saying once again that the UFC is all about the UFC. [They might say], ‘We want to make sure we don't have another incident like Dennis Hallman wearing inappropriate shorts.' Well, you could just say, ‘We don't want guys wearing shorts like that, and if you show up in shorts like that, we'll put you in these shorts.'

Instead, they want to unify things. I was actually told this: ‘The UFC can't grow if you're out there pitching your sponsors and all of that type of stuff.' Really? When every five seconds you have, ‘Coming up next week, the next best card of the year!' and then the week after that, ‘The next best card of the year, brought to you by Harley Davidson and this movie that paid us lots of money to tell you how awesome it is.' Then you have the scroll at the bottom talking about how awesome everything is and how you need to buy these products. So I'm not buying that. It's that you want to grab everything you can.

If I had a buffet, and one of my workers showed up with a sandwich, I'd say, ‘You know what, guys? Take a trip to the buffet. I won't even notice. You guys are working hard for me and I want to make sure I express how well I'm taking care of you.' One of my sponsors looked at me and said, ‘This contract is only going to work if you feel like you're getting the better end of the deal, and I feel like I'm getting the better end of the deal. If we both feel like we're winning, then this will work. If one of us feels taken advantage of, it's all going to fall apart.' So we worked out a deal where we were both happy, and it's been amazing ever since.

There was a charity that was going to work with me and put their logo on my shirt, which I was going to do for free. I was told, ‘You cannot have that charity, because they call you a UFC fighter on their website. They need to take that down.' Really? This is a charity that is doing surgical missions in Kenya. It said, ‘UFC fighter Nate Quarry is fighting on this date on this card supporting this charity.' ‘Nope. You can't have it. They can't say UFC fighter.'

My response was, ‘Does this mean you're going to hunt down the half a billion Twitter and Facebook users that talk about what great UFC fans they are? Because that's also an infringement on your rights.' I was told, ‘I don't have time to explain to you the intricacies of copyright law, you wouldn't understand it anyway.' Oh? Because I thought it was a BS statement and when I'm questioning you about it, it falls apart, but apparently I was wrong.

Steph Daniels: Let's talk talent development. You see Ronda Rousey with this gigantic push behind her, they set her up with a talent agency etc. Then Jon Jones came out last week and said, ‘ I see the UFC giving Ronda this amazing push, and I really don't know what the hell they're doing with me.'

Nate Quarry: And this is coming from the guy who is sponsored by the UFC. When I told him to his face how upset the other fighters were about it, he said, ‘I didn't hear anything.' Of course you didn't, Jon, because none of the fighters can publicly say how they feel about the champion being given however many hundreds of thousands of dollars to wear a UFC logo, when we're scraping by on the four or five approved shorts companies who don't have the budget to give us money, so they just give us shorts. Now when it's attacking your livelihood, you start to wonder what's up. Hmm.

Steph Daniels: Do you feel like it's fair that the UFC only gives that kind of attention to a few select people, or should they broaden it and give more people some kind of opportunity?

Nate Quarry: Yes, that would be great. I've always said that the best way to get UFC coverage is to either talk trash, because they really know how to market that, or fail a drug test and be very apologetic about it so they feel sorry for you, or be a fighter from a new country that they're trying to break into.

Fighters need to realize that this is a business and you have to push your own product.

I realize because, as I was told, I'm not a company man that I speak my mind a little too often. I've been public speaking since I was seven years old. I would do a phenomenal job representing the UFC in any way, shape or form, but I was never given that opportunity because I speak my mind too much. That's my belief.

As fighters, we all have to make our opportunities. If you're waiting on the UFC to give it to you, then you had better fight really, really hard, or talk a lot of trash like Chael. That's what they really know how to market. What's the big difference between Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen? Chael gets up there and talks trash and calls people cowards, and they know how to market that.

Someone like myself, a single father who fights really, really hard and gets knockouts or gets knocked out, they don't know how to market that. Because I don't get up there and say that all of Brazil is filled with cowards or idiots or something like that. It's just ridiculous. Fighters need to realize that this is a business and you have to push your own product.

You can follow Nate via his Twitter account, @NateRockQuarry

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