Should Fighters Unionize “The Business”?Posted on June 26, 2013, 06:20 PM by Brian Cox
The subject of money seems to be an ever growing issue in the sport of MMA and most particularly, regarding the amount of compensation fighters receive for their performances.
To be blunt, this is really about the UFC and how much (or little) they pay their fighters, relative to what the promotion is taking in.
Recently Jon Fitch took to YouTube and broke down his 8 years’ worth of payouts from the promotion. His average pre-tax income was 176K and as Fitch noted in the video, “most fighters didn’t make as much money as I did. That’s a fact.”
In listing out his revenues (shows, wins, bonuses) Fitch made no mention of PPV payouts. As he did not, it can (only) be assumed that he received none.
However, what we do know is that the UFC has made hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars from their PPVs’ and although it (the revenue) might be shared with marquee fighters, it’s apparently not shared with the rest.
Beyond the PPVs, the UFC is profiting from the residuals of remarketing old fights.
They are also earning vast sums of money from such sundry items as video games, licensing agreements, commercial sponsorships and merchandise etc., all of which is based on a brand name (UFC) whose (singular) value lies with the fighters that it signs or has signed.
Considering that the UFC’s brand and business model is based off of its fighters then does not the question become, what is the (real) business?
The obvious answer to that question would be the fighters, themselves. Each is an individual business that contracts with a promotion. Collectively they form the talent pool that a promotion draws upon to do business and subsequently, they are the business when amassed under that promotion’s contract.
As the sport stands today any decent promoter, Bellator for example, could take the UFC’s roster of fighters, put on a show and so long as they had Rogan & Goldie calling the fight and Herb Dean officiating it, nobody would care that it wasn’t the UFC nor would they care that it was Bjorn Rebney running it.
So, if the fighters are the business and they are and setting aside the Fertitta brothers investment and risk, all of which has been paid back many fold, then is it not time to open the books and start compensating fighters fairly and from “all” the revenue streams?
If the UFC is unwilling to do so, should the fighters unionize?
Personally, I would think so. I believe the fighters are getting hosed and have been for quite some time, now. They have no pensions, no benefits (beyond some medical); they receive no residual revenues and no share of any of the other income streams.
To put it in perspective, although Jon Fitch no longer fights for the UFC and has no pension benefits from them, he is none-the-less, still working for the UFC (via his stored digital image) and still making them money. Sadly, Jon will never see a dime of those proceeds. Sadder yet and in comparison, is that a background actor in movie or commercial gets paid every their “work” is aired.
To me, none of this seems right or fair. The fighters are the business and they have a legitimate claim to a greater share of the profits from that business. The UFC is simply the umbrella under which the business operates. If indeed that is the case, then perhaps it’s time for the fighters to demonstrate their collective power via union and demands.