Refuting Chuck Liddell On Fighter Pay

Refuting Chuck Liddell On Fighter Pay


In an Interview with “SiriusXM Sports” Chuck Liddell (Executive Vice President of Business Development, for the UFC) commented on the current “hot button topic” of (low) fighter pay within the promotion and I believe his remarks deserve riposte.

In preface, I should say that I have always loved and respected “The Ice Man”, both as a fighter and as an individual. I have followed his career and cheered him on for years and I was heartbroken when he lost his fight with Rich Franklin (a bout that he was clearly winning) and saddened that his career ended, as a result. I was, am and remain a fan.

However, this is a different fight and he, in a different corner. Chuck now wears the colors of the opposing side (on the issue of fighter pay) and as such, any comments that he makes should be weighed against the job he now does and not the job that he used to do.

EVPBD Liddell stated:

“Ya fight good, ya win, ya get paid; alright? You’re startin’ out no one knows who you are. No one cares. You don’t get paid, period. It’s simple.”

Counter Point: Chris Weidman is 6 & O in the UFC and just defeated Anderson Silva for the belt and by all standards he has fought well and won. Yet, his “show” money, the only thing that he was guaranteed for that fight, was a paltry 24K. To put it in perspective, Weidman promise money was only 3 times greater than that of Brian Melancon’s (8K) UFC “debut” show guarantee. So, on the face of it, there’s appears to be more to getting paid then simply winning and performing well.

EVPBD Liddell stated:

“My first…or… second (UFC) contract (3 fights), it was 12 grand for the year. It was 12 grand for a year and it was exclusive. Are you guys kidding me (laughs) what am I going to do with this?”

Counter Point: Exactly. What are fighters supposed to do with that kind of pre-tax, no costs yet covered, inflation affected income? Not a great deal. Hence, many signed fighters have need of jobs or “real jobs”, as Brian Melancon put it. The simple fact that Chuck laughed about the income that he used to make as a fighter is a telling one. It’s demonstrative of the fact that he knows it’s impossible to live on; even more so if you have a family.   

EVPBD Liddell stated:

“Guys are getting paid plenty. Trust me. I got paid plenty. Trust me.”

Counter Point: If this is the case, then why are fighters beginning to complain openly and why is it that it’s a “hot button” issue? As to Chuck getting paid plenty, of course he did. He was a marquee fighter; marquee fighters are not the ones hurting or the issue. More importantly, the UFC revenue stream has expanded in all manner of ways in the past number of years, yet none of it has been shared with the fighters; residuals on replays for example.

EVPBD Liddell stated:

“If you’re an entertaining fighter… (and) they want to see you fight you’ll get paid…the guys at the top are the fighters that are supposed to get paid, because they’re the guys that are bringing people in, they’re 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.”

Counter Point: There now seems to be another component which has been added to the earning criteria and that is, “entertaining” and what people / fan’s “want”. I’m fine with both, however, the criteria can be manipulated and it has been. Chael Sonnen, for example, is a master of “gaming” these criteria. He is a top (paid) fighter and due more to his rhetoric than this record.

For, at 6 & 6 (UFC) and with only 1 stoppage to his credit and all losses being by either submission or TKO, “The American Gangster” does not meet the criteria of fighting “good” and winning or even being that entertaining in the ring. With the exception of one fight, (Silva / Sonnen I) most of his entertaining has been done outside the Octagon and not in it. Yet, by knowing how to hype and promote himself (and good for him for doing so, he’s a bright guy) he’s managed to do well (financially) in the UFC.

As a final point, as there are only 9 division Champions, there can only be a churn of a few fighters at the top. Ones who either hold a belt or are in contention and no matter how well the “no one knows who you are…no one cares” fighters fight, they will never be able to perform well enough (for all of them) to meet the criteria and get “paid” and because and simply put, there are not enough “legitimate” spots that are both available and “payable” and, by the UFC’s (own) capricious criteria.

Yet, it is these “no one knows who you are…no one cares” fighters, which are the actors that fill out the cast and support the stars. Without them, I doubt we’d have a show and their number(s) would include ranked UFC fighters. One can only imagine how few events the UFC could put on, should they only be able to feature those who were paid well and devoid of (all) those… “no one knows who you are…no one cares”  (exciting, crowd pleasing) fighters.  

The Executive Vice President of Business Development, for the UFC and his bosses, should consider all of this, when they consider the question of (low) fighter pay.

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  • enjoylife321

    Unfortunately fighters are misrepresented. The UFC would have you believe that every fighter is calling to be paid a million dollars to fight which is wrong. What the fighters are calling for is

    1.better entry pay (more than 8k)
    2.sharing of the PPV for guys like Shane Carwin who are major attractions on cards (now retired) Too many guys get shafted on PPV revenue..Its simply wrong.
    3. My opinion is that everyone participating on a main card should be in receipt of a percentage with the title holders recieving the larger percentage. It should be pro rata depending on number of fights.

    Speak to Dana and he will let you believe that fighters who don't hold belts should recieve minimal pay. Yet many of these guys have put on wars and are veterans.

  • ShenronRage

    Chuck is right, no one makes **** when they start. That I can understand. But how can anyone justify low payouts to those on the main card? There should be a scale, if you are exciting, and you win then you get a bonus, and get to be on the main card, and if a fighter is in the main or co-main event then there should be zero reasons that they make anything less that 100k, there is no excuse.

  • aaron-sisson1994

    It's a hit and miss with MMA fighter's.

  • therumblemma

    I disagree completely. If you're the champ you did alot to get there and deserve to get paid . How much revenue did Anderson and Weidman make for the UFC @ UFC 162?and Weidman gets potatoes ? That's crazy UFC politics and it really is silly.

  • clownshoes

    Chuck is right. Unfortunately, when you take a contract in any business, you are taking a risk that you will be underpaid in the future. If a farmer and a food producer sign a contract that the food producer will pay a specific price in 5 years for corn, then there is the possibility that the price will rise above the agreed upon price, and the farmer's corn will be worth more than the contracted amount.

    The reason I bring that up is that Chris Weidman has a contract with the UFC and didn't get paid well, because if the deal he AGREED upon. He signed that contract willingly. Now that he is known and proven, when he renegotiates his contract, he will be able to make more money.

    People in all lines of business get paid on the value that they produce. If you aren't drawing business and causing fans to watch the UFC, then you aren't creating value for the UFC and you get paid less. If they don't like the pay and apply their set of skills elsewhere for more money then they can do that. No one is making them compete in mixed martial arts.

  • matt1926

    Whatever Dana White and the UFC is doing is obviously working. The way Dana made it sound during his post fight scrum was that a lot of the fighter's pay is incentive based that's not reported. As a fan I would rather have a guy go in there and fight to get paid more than to already be paid before he fights. For everyone that is crying out that the UFC is cheap and the fighters should get paid more, I say beware what you wish for.