UFC president Dana White is no stranger to criticisms about fighter pay. Every time he gets asked about it, he will always have a rebuttal to throw out.
During last week’s Contender Series media scrum, White’s argument centered around UFC middleweight Kevin Holland, who apparently lives quite the lavish and flashy lifestyle.
The UFC president believes fighters who compete more have far more openings than those who scrap less frequently, citing Kevin Holland as a perfect example. pic.twitter.com/lamz7hR7Wk— The Mac Life (@TheMacLife) September 22, 2021
“So one day, I’m on Instagram… I see this kid, and he’s buying all these shoes. I’m like, ‘Holy shit!’ Like, expensive shoes, like Nikes that you can’t get your f—ng hands on and are really expensive. And then he starts buying muscle cars and all this stuff,” White said.
“So I call Hunter (Campbell), and I said ‘Hey, pull the numbers on him.’ I said, ‘Hooly shiyet! That’s how much f—g money… No wonder why this kid’s buying muscle cars and all this stuff.’
“The bottom line is the more you fight, the more people see you, the more famous you become. And obviously, if you keep winning, you work your way up. And you make a shitload of money. Why would you not?”
Holland wholeheartedly agrees with his boss and urges his fellow fighters to do the same. Especially those who have complaints about their pay.
“A lot of people get in this position that they’re in right now, like fighting on TV, being in the biggest promotion in the world. And they think, like, ‘OK, I’m good.’ Like, ‘I should be set,’” Holland said during a media scrum this week.
“You gotta be more active. You have to be more active so you can get this money. Money is a lot. You need that money so you can take care of businesses and other stuff like that. Family, and so on, and so forth. But people go, ‘Oh, people in the NFL make this much money, people in the NBA make this much money…’
“The benchwarmers don’t make that much money. WNBA makes shit money. And at the end of the day, you guys are fighting twice a year, once a year, and you’re mad ‘cause you only made, like $30K/$40K that year.
“Bruh, you made $30-40K off one fight. If you fought twice, you make $80K. That’s still more than what the person over here working every day is making.”
Holland says it isn’t only the fighters who are affected by a lack of activity, but the coaches, too.
“As fighters, you fight three times a year? That’s three times. That’s three different seasons,” he explained. “Isn’t there four seasons in a year? You get a whole season off. You still can make more than what somebody who has a big-time trade can make.
“And for all these fighters that’s going around complaining they ain’t making no money, think about your f—ng coaches. If your bum ass is only fighting one time a year, your coach ain’t making no money.”
For what it’s worth, “benchwarmers” in major sports leagues actually get paid a lot regardless if they play or not. Because of their ability to collectively bargain, athletes in NBA or NFL get around 50% of the revenue, and even the absolute worst players on the league still get a very high minimum salary. The UFC has targeted to pay fighters just 17% of their revenue for years.
As Holland brought up, the WNBA is also an org that dealt with issues on low athlete pay for years. Instead of taking a jab at their pay, maybe UFC fighters can actually take a page from these women, as they do have a Players Union, which recently finalized a new CBA that increased their pay from around 20% of the revenue in 2019, to close to 50% in 2021. The WNBA, which definitely doesn’t draw as much money as their counterparts, has minimum contracts going up to $68,000, depending on experience, plus benefits.
Holland entered the UFC on a contract that paid him $13,000 in 2018. As he mentioned, a good chunk of that still went to his coaches and training fees, while athletes in other sports are the ones being paid to train.
To his credit, Holland has indeed made the most of the situation he’s in, and has been an active fighter since he began his professional career six years ago. He fought six times in 2015, and five times each in 2018 and 2020.
In the UFC, wins can get you a small increase in your purse, while managing to be one of four bonus winners in a card can help as well. Holland has had eight wins and three performance of the night bonuses so far in his UFC career.
He’s about to take on his third fight for 2021 in this weekend’s UFC Vegas 38 co-headliner against Kyle Daukaus.