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Opinion: Edson Barboza, and why UFC fighters must sign short contracts

There’s no reason UFC fighters should sign lengthy contracts

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UFC 242: Barboza v Felder Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Edson’s Barboza’s social media plea to be released from his UFC contract should serve as a warning to other UFC fighters — do not sign lengthy contracts with the promotion.

A few hours before Saturday’s UFC 248 fight card, the Brazilian wrote on Twitter that after 10 years with the promotion, he wanted UFC president Dana White and UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby to let him go.

The odds Barboza, who fought in the main event or co-main event of nine UFC fight cards and earned nine “fight-night” bonuses, will get his wish is probably in the low single digits.

The first thing that popped into my mind was that UFC fighters should refrain from putting their names on contracts with the UFC for more than one or two fights. If there is a reason fighters should sign three to six-fight deals (or more), I would love to hear it.

UFC contracts offer fighters zero guarantees when it comes to term or money. All of the benefits of a lengthy UFC contract fall on the side of the promotion. So if a fighter signs a 15-fight deal, as Anderson Silva said he did in 2014, all that does for Silva is lock him into the UFC for 15 fights.

If Silva wants out of that deal? Too bad, he signed it. If the UFC had wanted to cut Silva after the first loss on that deal, it could have. Would Silva have collected any money remaining on that contract? Not a chance, because, as I said, there is no guaranteed money to collect.

In contrast to a lengthy UFC deal, if an NHL player signs a 15-year-deal and the team cuts him, as the New York Islanders did with Rick DiPietro in 2013, the player gets to collect two-thirds of what is owed on that contract over twice the remaining length of the deal. What that meant for the oft-injured goaltender was that he was due $24 million over 16 years, which translates to $1.5 million per year through 2029.

If the UFC offered guaranteed money and a buyout clause like the NHL, it would be easy to encourage fighters like Silva to sign long deals providing the buyout clause provided them with a comfortable amount of money for the future. As it stands, zero dollars is not a suitable number for anyone.

The UFC wants fighters and fans to believe the number of fights on a contract means something, but that number is meaningless when it comes to the fighter.

All UFC fighters should force the UFC to renegotiate after one or two bouts. If every competitor on the roster did that, it could potentially change the game at least a little for the fighters. The UFC does not have the staff to deal with 500+ contracts that are more or less in constant negotiation. If fighters did stick to one or two fight deals, the UFC might be forced to offer fighters some guarantees so they accept longer deals.

As it stands, a 15-fight UFC deal might sound impressive, but the reality is that it’s one of the worst contracts anyone in sports could sign.

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