Chuck Liddell made the rounds at the UFC Fan Expo last week, part of which included a stop by Sirius 92 XM's Fight Club Radio. Liddell talked about his current position with the UFC, Stephan Bonnar's Hall of Fame induction, fighters and risk taking, and most notably his stance on the UFC pay scale:
"Okay, look. I just had this conversation with a top-10 fighter, and he's saying the same thing. These guys have got to understand, this is a performance based sport, like all sports. You fight good, you win, you get paid. Alright? You're starting out, no one knows who you are, no one cares, you don't get paid. Period. It's simple. I mean, my first contract I was offered by the UFC, or my second contract, it was 1-and-1, 2-and-2, 3-and-3. That's $12,000 for the year. Don't complain to me about fighter pay. It was $12,000 for a year and it was exclusive. What are you guys kidding me what am I going to do with this."
"Everybody doesn't want to hurt to lower guys from getting paid, but it comes down to, it's a performance based business. You get good, you win, then you get paid. Guys are getting paid plenty, trust me. I got paid plenty, trust me."
"You're an entertaining, you're fighting... basically it's a performance based sport. People have to want to see you fight. So if they want to see you fight you'll get paid. If you're a fighter that makes money, you'll get paid. Everybody points to, ‘Oh, boxing these guys are getting...' There's a couple guys that make these big huge paydays. That's it. The undercards don't make anything. There's bottom guys on some of those cards that are making $100 a round. $100 a round. That's $400 for a four-round fight.
"People got to understand, the fighters at the top are the fighters that are supposed to get paid because they're the guys that are bringing people in, bringing eyes to the TV, getting pay-per-views buys, and putting people in the seats. I mean, that's what it comes down to. You want to get that? Beat everybody. Be good enough. If you're not good enough to get there -- sorry. It's not a welfare state."
"You picked the wrong profession. I saw a guy in California, he said "I won 8 fights in a row and I can't make a living," cause he wasn't I guess. I looked at your record. you won 8 fights in a row on these small shows. You fought in the UFC twice, you came up twice after winning long streak wins and lost twice. Hey, you made a good run at it. You tried. Eh, try another sport because this one doesn't work for you. You can't even beat an entry level guy into the UFC."
As I mentioned Monday, this isn't exactly a surprising take from the UFC old guard, if anything I'm surprised it didn't come sooner. I'd say Chuck is taking the narrow view, and failing somewhat, to recognize the massive change the sport has undergone since his second contract in what I'm assuming was 2001 or 2002 (since that was the only early time he was with the UFC for three straight fights exclusively). But he has a good point, on his own terms, that it was not that long ago that he and other young fighters were making way, way less money than anyone on the UFC rosters today and that there are a lot of opportunities at the top for those who put in the time at the bottom.
So, what are your thoughts, does Chuck make a fair point, or is he just towing the party line?