Recently Nate Quarry released a statement to fans on the UG. He followed that statement up with an in-depth interview with Bloody Elbow's Steph Daniels, where he went into more detail about the UFC's policies of brand use and licensing rights, potential for unionizing, and fighter pay, among many other topics. Now, Lorenzo Fertitta is returning fire. He spoke to Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole in regard to Quarry's comments and how he felt they lacked a lot of necessary context as to where they UFC was financially at the beginning of Quarry's run with the organization.
"This sport is in its infancy, and I'll admit that there is so much more to be done, but the media is focusing so much on the negative and there are far more positives out there in terms of what we have done for the sport and the fighters," Fertitta said. "You come to work every day and you kind of feel beaten down because it's something new [to complain about] every day."
"I'm not going to argue or counter every specific claim made by Nate Quarry on some website," Fertitta said. "I'm super proud of what we have done for our athletes, this sport and this company. Our track record is darn good as a whole and we have nothing to be embarrassed about.
"This fight Nate is talking about was so long ago and clearly the business wasn't where it is today. It was in its infancy and we were coming out of a period where we suffered millions upon millions in losses. It wasn't an insignificant amount of money. And I'll tell you this, Nate is a smart guy. Absolutely he is. He knew when he signed his contract exactly what he'd be paid."
He was also quick to contest Quarry's assertations that UFC fighters only see about 1-2% of the UFC's total revenue:
"That's not even close but I'm not going to go into specifics about it," Fertitta said. "I'm interested in how Nate Quarry knows so much about our business that he can say that. As I said earlier, though, fighter compensation has increased multiples upon multiples since we've gotten into the business and built it up to where it is today.
"We're very proud of what our athletes make. Granted, back in 2004, 2005, it was a different world. We weren't getting the revenues back then that we are today. We feel the fighters are getting their fair share, if not more."...
"[Fighter payroll] has gone up significantly, and though I don't have it at the tip of my fingers, I can tell you it's gone up faster than the percentage of revenue growth." he said. "Fighter comp is growing at a faster rate than revenues."
Iole also spoke at length about the UFC's current business market and the financial climate that other fighters have found themselves in recently while under Zuffa employment, so be sure to check out the whole piece.
I'm not actually sure where Nate posited the "1-2% of revenue" numbers, and nothing I've seen from any potential breakdown of UFC fighter pay as a percentage of revenue would suggest that those numbers would be accurate, so I'm not surprised it got a definitive response from Fertitta. I do however find it interesting that he ascertains that fighters were getting "their fair share" in the early days and then asserts that "fighter comp is growing at a faster rate than revenues." It would suggest that the UFC is now paying fighters well above their market value, but disclosed contracts from Bellator, WSOF, and even ONE FC would suggest that this, largely, is not the case.
This also overlooks the available data that shows reported fighter pay as a percentage of revenue actually dropped between 2004 and 2006 as the UFC greatly increased the number of events and stocked them with fighters at the bottom of the pay scale. To say that fighters have always gotten "their fair share" ignores that that share has not always changed for the better even if revenue has.
There are other factors at work here as well, such as Zuffa's status as a Limited Liability Company and what exactly that means for their losses beyond initial investment. I don't doubt that Fertitta is on point when he speaks to the overall company position at the time, especially considering that they had been very close to selling the UFC. But his statements in response to Quarry are a bit broad in their view of history to dismiss the kinds of complaints Quarry is making.