Dana White | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Dana White is not moving an inch on his position regarding UFC fighter pay.
For the past several years, White has repeatedly come under fire for fighter pay in the UFC, will several high-profile fighters speaking out against the current structure, and YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul making it his personal life’s mission to antagonize the UFC President over the issue. White has repeatedly refused to engage, denying fighters are underpaid and essentially saying the UFC is never going to change. But with fighters like Tyron Woodley making more to boxing Jake Paul than he made in his entire UFC career, the topic isn’t going away, and now, the UFC president has adopted a new angle: adding pay scale to his many issues with professional boxing.
“There’s always gonna be head butting,” White said on The Pivot Podcast when asked about UFC fighter pay. “Do you make enough money? Do you? I want to meet that guy that goes, ‘Oh, I’m good. I make plenty of money. I don’t need another dime.’ You’re never going to meet that guy. It’s never going to happen. Everybody wants more money. And one of the big problems with boxing too, is that all those f****** guys are overpaid, and every time they put on a fight, it’s a going-out-of-business sale. We’re just trying to get as much f****** money as we can from you guys, and then we’re out of here. We’ll see you in three years.
“You can’t build a league like that. You can’t build a sport. You can’t have 750 fighters under contract, making money, feeding their families every year, with that kind of mentality. It doesn’t work. You have to run a business.”
White has certainly run a successful business thus far. Year after year, the company has boasted about breaking its financial records, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this continued growth has come with marginal benefit to the fighters, who still only take home around 20 percent of the company’s yearly revenue, a paltry amount compared to other sports leagues, where that number hovers around 50 percent. But Dana White lauds the incentives of the UFC’s current structure, wherein the best fighters in the world receive pay-per-view points to boost their salaries.
“What we did it we built a business model where, if you’re the champion, you share in the pay-per-view revenue,” White said. “If you’re the guy headlining the card, or there’s been some special occasions where we know you’re bringing in the money, too, and you’re a big draw so you, too, get to share in the pay-per-view revenue. You eat what you kill.
“The truth is, you get some of these guys that — you can walk in and say, ‘I want $30 million dollars.’ OK, based on what? I do too. Give me $30 million. We all want $30 million, but based on what? And you’re never going to have the guys on the other side worrying about the business of the sport. Because this isn’t a team sport. … In this sport here, it’s about me. ‘I’m the biggest f****** star here. I knocked out 30 people. I did this, I did that. I want as much money as I can get, and I really don’t give a s*** about anybody else, including you, the boss that runs the business. I don’t care about this whole business. It’s about me.’
“So you have to maintain some sort of control over that type of stuff to run a real business, because at the end of the day, the reason this business has been this rocket ship of success is because not only have we built a solid [business] where these fighters are all making lots of money and doing well — even guys that are journeymen [are doing well].”
White’s insistence that the top fighters in the sport are fairly compensated is belied by the fact that those same fighters continuing to try and talk their way into boxing matches. Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou seems likely to be headed for a superfight with Tyson Fury once his contract expires in December, and welterweight champion Kamaru Usman has repeatedly lobbied for a fight with Canelo Alvarez, despite White saying outright that he was not interested. These would seem to indicate a larger issue with pay than White is willing to reckon with, but for the UFC president, it’s all just noise.
“Here’s what I always say: if you don’t like what I’m doing, you don’t like the way I’m doing it, go out and raise some money, I did, and start your own and pay them what ever you want to pay them,” White said. “We built one of the most successful sports leagues of all time in 20 years. People actually want to invest money into this thing, which makes the sport grow which makes more opportunities for more people, not just the fighters but my employees, and the people that we hire, and it just continues to grow and grow. When you let these people come in and suck all the life and the money out, it doesn’t work. You have to run a real business and you have to have a business that people are interested and want to invest in.”