Fighter pay has been a hot button issue in regards to the UFC for some time now. Most recently, former middleweight contender Nate Quarry addressed the complicated landscape of compensation for a UFC fighter in an interview with Bloody Elbow. Lorenzo Fertitta, CEO of the UFC, was the first to respond to Quarry's comments on Thursday. Fertitta mostly focused on some inaccuracies in Quarry's argument while avoiding his larger points.
"I like Nate Quarry," White told reporters Thursday. "Let me tell you what. You're never going to hear me say anything negative about any of the guys from season one of The Ultimate Fighter. I love those guys, I respect them, I always had a great relationship with Nate Quarry."
White continued by saying that Lorenzo had already addressed Quarry's statement and he had nothing further to add. Yahoo! Sports' columnist Kevin Iole followed up with a series of questions regarding how the current sponsorship market and rumors of an impending UFC uniform could effect the preliminary (and specifically Fight Pass) card fighters income going forward. White responded:
"It's not my f--- problem," White said. "Getting sponsorship is a problem. It's tough. it's hard to do. That question is ridiculous. If a guy fights on Fight Pass, first of all, he's getting paid to fight. That's what he's getting paid for. That's what he does. How sponsorship works out for a guy is not my problem. That is not my problem. He's a fighter, he gets paid to fight, period, end of story. Whatever extra money he makes outside of the UFC with sponsors and all that s---, that's his f--- deal."
Before reacting to Dana's comments a couple of things must be noted. First, White adamantly contends that despite the rumors, no deal involving official UFC uniforms exists right now. He also states that were a uniform code to come to fruition, they'd assure fighters are satisfied. Additionally, in his interaction with White, Iole focused mostly on the difficulty of sponsorship acquisition for combatants appearing on the Fight Pass online streams. Regardless of whether those fighters are on Fight Pass, Facebook/YouTube, or blacked out as they were in very recent years, those fighters are always going to struggle more than more established UFC fighters.
With that said, White's response still avoids or distorts larger points. The overall landscape of fighter sponsorship has been increasingly dwindling recently. While there are many factors in that equation, the UFC is at the very least partially accountable for the current market. The policies that the promotion has in place for fighter sponsoring has drifted more and more into the direction of wholly favorable for the UFC itself.
As Quarry pointed out, the UFC sponsor tax has specifically hindered fighters' ability to retain sponsorship. Additionally, the UFC requires exclusivity in sponsorship contracts - i.e. any company that sponsors any UFC fighter cannot sponsor another fighter in a competitor's organization. Finally, any sponsor must have UFC approval before getting their logo on a fighter's gear. If an official uniform is in the future of the UFC, it would only further restrict the ability of a fighter to retain supplementary compensation.
These ever-compounding restrictions on sponsorships are exactly why Dana cannot say, "That is not my problem." Quarry repeatedly emphasized the importance of the additional income needed to be a full time fighter. While UFC fighter pay has significantly increased over the last decade, stories like Bubba McDaniel's show that their earnings are still underwhelming. In this kind of market, the UFC cannot simultaneously say they're not accountable for sponsorship as they fail to provide a livable wage to their independent contractors.