The discussion over UFC fighter pay isn’t about to die down and go away, at least not as long as the promotion has to contend with high-profile athletes holding out for better contracts. But that doesn’t mean that every fighter in the promotion is looking for a bigger piece of the UFC pie.
At least one top talent appears to believe that there are very good reasons that the promotion deserves the vast share of revenue generated from UFC events. To hear former Bellator champion and lightweight top contender Michael Chandler tell it on a recent episode of Jeremy Piven’s ‘How U Livin J Piven’ podcast, Dana White just works harder than fighters do.
“And that’s why I’ve always been—and I think I take some flack for it from fighters—because I don’t have a problem with the quote/un-quote ‘fighter pay’ argument,” Chandler explained. “I think people think we should make a lot more money because the UFC makes a ton of money on their shows. Well, the UFC’s been at it since 1993. Dana White has had 10,000 sleepless nights when most of us fighters are just showing up to practice and going to bed, laying our head on the pillow and getting after it—and getting paid a decent wage for what we do.
“For me, I have been able to monetize things outside of just my fights,” he continued. “And you always see guys on the microphone saying UFC should pay more—or that the media should say that the UFC should pay more—and it’s never the guys who are out there having their own YouTube channel, getting roles in movies, building fitness & wellness lifestyle programs, selling merch; doing all the different things that we can do as fighters, because we’re independent contractors. With our platform and our name and likeness—the UFC owns it, and they can use a picture and a video of me in whatever they want—but I can sell shirts, I can sell hats, I can do whatever I want. I can be in your next movie [clears throat], I don’t know? We can do whatever we want.
“I always think that there’s people on the lower rungs of society always throwing rocks at the people above them, when it takes the same amount of energy to reach up and grab the next rung to pull themselves up to get there. That’s kinda my thought process on it, and I’ve kinda been a self starter and a self motivated kind of guy.”
It’s worth noting that multiple fighters over the years have found themselves struggling to “do whatever they want” while under UFC contract. Whether it’s outfitting or fight-week sponsorship, competing in other, non-MMA sports, or—in the past—contract language that prevented fighters from engaging in dangerous activities like riding motorcylces or wake-boarding, working with the promotion may come with major bonuses, but it’s not without limitations.
Chandler is currently fresh off a second round KO victory over former interim UFC champion Tony Ferguson at UFC 274. That win broke a two-fight skid, with losses to Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira in 2021. After the win, Chandler called for a second shot at the UFC lightweight title or, barring that, a chance to face off against former double-champ and UFC superstar Conor McGregor. No word yet on when he may be back in the Octagon.