ESPN examines UFC fighter pay with Lorenzo Fertitta, Ken Shamrock, and others

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Along with UFC 142, the item that seemed to get the most attention from UFC President Dana White was the ESPN “Outside the Lines” production that set out to examine the pay structure the UFC uses when compensating its fighters.

The expose’ begins by singing the praises of Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who purchased the UFC in 2001 for two million dollars and grew it to a company worth an estimated one billion dollars plus. From there the production turns to the practices it seeks to question, mainly the perceived inequality in revenue distribution between the UFC and other major sports in the United States.

ESPN begins by  focusing on the entry level fighters who are on a graduating pay scale, starting at $6,000 then moving to $8,000 and then $10,000 per fight.  With a win a fighter can double their base salary for each fight. ESPN does acknowledge that the UFC pay is greater than that of entry level boxers, but is far less than those that play in the NHL, NBA and MLB.

The NHL collective bargaining agreement states that players will receive from 54 to 57 percent  of the league revenue, while the NBA players get from 49 to 51 percent and NFL players receive 48 percent. When pressed on the subject, Fertitta said the UFC pays its fighters in the neighborhood of those other sports.

What the ESPN report ignores is that the NFL, NBA and NFL were not always in the same boat they are in today. A perfect example is Wayne Gretzky, perhaps the greatest professional hockey player ever. Gretzky’s first professional contract was for seven years and $1.75 million, which equates to $250,000 a year. Today the league minimum is $525,000. Showing that as the sport grew and revenue grew so did the salaries of the players.

Fertitta acknowledges that as the UFC has grown so has the pay. “Since 2005 to today, once we started actually generating enough revenue to where we’re not losing money,” Fertitta told ESPN.com. “We’ve paid out over a quarter of a billion dollars to our fighters. We’ve made 39 millionaires since we’ve owned the company.

In closing Fertitta offered the following, “Im proud of what we’ve done. I think what we’ve done is exactly what America is all about. We go out , we risk our money, we use our entrepreneurial spirit, we work 14 hours a day, we created an industry that these guys wouldn’t be making any money if it wasn’t for us. And 39 millionaires, I’m pretty proud of that and we’re going to make a lot more because we’re just getting started.” – for more see ESPN.com

The below video is a portion of the video that was not included in the ESPN broadcast, but was recored by the UFC as ESPN conducted their interview with Fertitta.

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