Dana White on Fighter Pay: “When you look at the lives we’ve changed, I’m (expletive) proud of it”

July 4, 2013
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UFC-on-FOX-2-Pre-Presser-Dana-White-08In the 13 years that Zuffa has owned the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it has taken the promotion from the brink of extinction to one of the hottest sports properties on the planet.

Over the course of that time, they’ve also provided the opportunity for numerous fighters to not only make a living in their chosen sport, but to thrive. Several have gone on to become millionaires, and many have cemented legacies.

But along with any success story come the critics who believe that things can always be better.

Such has been the case with the UFC recently with a few of the promotion’s former fighters, and even current UFC fighter Tim Kennedy, discussing the issue of fighter pay and whether or not it’s enough.

It’s left company officials pondering whether they should change the current bonus system they have in place, or even eliminate bonuses altogether.

The UFC typically hands out post-fight bonuses with official awards at each event for Fight of the Night, Knockout of the Night and Submission of the Night, but also issues discretionary “locker room bonuses” to fighters that they feel are deserving because of an outstanding performance.

Criticism of fighter pay being too low has rankled UFC president Dana White, who believes his company has achieved a lot during his tenure.

“The fact is we’ve only had this company for 13 years, but we’ve made tons of guys millions of dollars,” White said Thursday following the UFC 162 pre-fight press conference. “How many people have the opportunity to go out right now, in this market, today, and go make a million (expletive) dollars?”

He believes that the bonus system they have in place works because it encourages fighters to reach for greater heights, and if you’re not willing to do that… too bad.

“We work in a business where we’re as good as our last fight, not just (fighters), me too. The UFC, every time we do a fight, whether its on pay-per-view, it’s on TV or whatever, people make the decision to stay home on a Saturday night and not do anything else. There’s a lot of (expletive) to do on a Saturday night,” he explained. “These people make a decision to stay home on a Saturday night and watch our show.

“We get a show with a bunch of guys who want to push against the (expletive) fence and stand there for 15 (expletive) minutes and try to squeak out a win? How many people do you think are gonna tune in next Saturday? And if this keeps continuing, you become (expletive) boxing, where guys are running around in circles and nobody fights and you walk away going ‘this fight sucked.'”

A fighter who chooses to “squeak out a win” isn’t earning those bonuses, and White believes those are the fighters that are complaining that they aren’t getting paid enough.

“The guys who are complaining about this are the guys that don’t matter,” White put it bluntly. “That might sound mean and harsh and ‘why would nobody matter, everybody matters.’

“We’re in this (expletive) society now where, everybody should win a trophy. No, everyone doesn’t win a (expletive) trophy. The guys who stand out and the guys who deserve bonuses, the guys who make it exciting, the guys who rise to the top are the guys who deserve the money.

“Be the (expletive) guy who stands out,” he continued. “If you’re the guy who stands out, you’re the guy who people want to see again. You’re the guy people want to spend money for.”

White tried to avoid getting too political about his comments, but pointed to his issues with fighters that believe they’re not getting paid enough as a symptom of a larger problem in the United States.

“Let’s not forget, we live in (expletive) America, the land of opportunity. I feel like we’re in this (expletive) country where the American Dream is going away. Nobody has the American Dream anymore,” White stated.

“I am living the American Dream. I got into this thing, got these guys to invest, looked like it was gonna happen, now look at this (expletive) thing. This is the (expletive) you should be dreaming about.

“You should want to be Anderson Silva. You should want to be Jon Jones. You should aspire to be the best.”

Of course, not every fighter can be an Anderson Silva or a Jon Jones. Not every fighter can be at the top of his or her class. White pointed to fighters like Sam Stout and Joe Lauzon, however, as prime examples that opportunity is still there for those that may never reach the pinnacle, but give it their all trying to get to the top.

“Stout is a (expletive) animal who comes out and loves to fight and every time he comes out to fight he puts on an amazing show,” said White. “Joe Lauzon is not seen as the top guy in his division. Do you know how many people go (expletive) crazy when I saw Joe Lauzon is on the card? Because people love to watch him fight. Joe Lauzon has won more fighter bonuses than I think anybody.

“If you are that (expletive) guy, the system works for you. But if you are not that guy, then boo (expletive) hoo, you don’t matter. I’m sure that sucks.”

White knows that his comments are sure to ruffle feathers and hurt feelings, but he doesn’t slink away from controversy.

“When you look at the list of millionaires and the lives we’ve changed and the things we’ve done, yeah, I’m pretty (expletive) proud of it.”

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  • Steve

    Scumbag dana

  • UFC Fighter

    For being on national tv and in the being in the best professional fight club in the world guys are getting very low salaries. Some of the new guys just make a few thousand dollars a fight. If a fight camp is 3 months and a new fighter makes let’s say 6000, that is only 2000 a month. For sacrificing your body on a national world class level this is nothing. only a few individuals will make enough to survive and retire. The smaller fight organizations are where fighters should make a lower amount, not the UFC. Look in the Nba, even the lowest paid player and non champion player gets over a half million a year while being a bench warmer.

    • Fight master

      If you don’t like the f****** pay, get a different f****** job. The NBA brings in a lot more revenue and sits a lot more asses in the seats than the UFC. Zuffa owned UFC has only been around for 13 years. NBA and other National sports leauges have been around decades.

  • Guy1223

    Dana White is nothing more than a hooligan who is living the “American Dream” off the backs of guys who work a million times harder than he ever has for anything. The only reason Dana has his job is because he was friends with the Fertitta Brothers.

    What a bulls*** artist this white guy is. He ruined so many fighter’s careers with this bullshit, maybe if you actually paid guys you would see the quality of fights go up. Rather than all this leg-humping we have been getting as of late.

  • Will1223

    … Remember Dana, the only reason you got the Fertitta brothers to invest was because you were drinking buddies in high school. Keep living the dream off the backs of guys who work a thousand times harder than you.

    • Mark Bazid

      If you really think that Dana White does not work hard then your a F*@kin idiot!!!

      • Dana is always working on something that guy and the Fertitta brothers have worked very hard to get this company where it is today. Not only did they put in the work but they risked their own money.

    • Well you know what they say; it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know.

  • Your Mom

    So many crybabies!! I love how so many people are haters behind the screen. Why is Dana such a POS?? You guys are idiots! LMAO!!

  • Steve

    Can DW articulate a sentence without swearing?

  • Steve Kombolis

    If you need your win bonus just to keep the lights on and make sure you don’t get fired because you have no guaranteed future fights, you can’t afford to go for the big bonus. Some guys only get 4k to show. If outpointing a guy or laying on him for 3 rounds guarantees that they double their money and keep their job then that is what they will do. These guys need minimum 3-fight contracts and at least 8-10k to show. After taxes and expenses they are lucky to take home half that. For a sport that bristles at being compared to cock-fighting and keeps saying how big it is growing, you gotta at least guarantee your pro-fighters 24k before taxes. I don’t care if the UFC already pays better than other organizations that exploit their fighters. Part of becoming a legit sport is paying a legit wage

  • David Huenecke

    Unforunately I agree with him. We do live in a society where kids are brought up to believe they are great at everything they do. They dont know that the blue ribbon means first place because even if they lose they get a blue ribbon that says participation award. I was a swimmer as a kid and hated not being first not for any reason other than I worked my ass off and I felt I won. If I didnt went I went and practiced harder and worked on my times. You cant just lay and pray on a dude to keep your job in the UFC. They cut fighters for being boring now too. If you want to be a fighter go out and fight; give it your all and you’ll get paid for it. You might even get a bonus. Fighting is a job unlike any other where if you phone it in people will notice. You cant just have a bad day at work at then go in the next and make it up. He’s saying the guys that go into work and do a good job get paid better than the ones that have a shitty day and expect to get paid the same

  • Eo81

    Dana white has made a handful of millionaires yet he himself has made over 175 million in those 13 yrs. roger goodell nfl commissioner worked for a dollar last yr while dana made a reported 35 million !! at least 15-20 times as much as any of his fighters even with these alleged bonuses. a close friend of mine is a top contender w three straight ko’s and he hasn’t seen one of these locker room bonuses. dana is a mafia gangster is what he is

    • BarrysHypocrisy

      Yeah, how terrible that Dana worked hard and became successful. How terrible…..

      • Eo81

        Thats not terrible. Its terrible when you have success and do not share it with the ppl who REALLY worked hard and made that possible for you. to take a salary of that amount when the average fight salary for the guys that everyone is paying that money to see is 16k is criminal man and you sound stupid even defending it. I’m all for making yourself rich and successful but within reason . you have to share that wealth a little !

        • bajafox

          MMA is NOT for whiny liberals. In this sport, you win and excite the fans and you get paid. Like Dana said, not everybody gets a trophy. This country is going down the shitter due to your “spread the wealth mentality.” Get out there and earn it or stfu

        • BarrysHypocrisy

          So, do you share your salary with your co-workers? Because, according to you, you should……

  • BarrysHypocrisy

    Should the fighters be getting paid more? Yes.

    BUT, they all sign a contract and know how much they will be getting paid and nobody is forcing them to fight. If they don’t like it, then they can go try and get paid better in another organization or do something else for a living.

    Nobody is forcing these guys to sign the contracts and fight.

  • Darin

    I won’t get into all the semantics of numbers. My main problem is illustrated by the quote in the title, “..the lives WE’VE changed”. Again, this comes back to Dana thinking that the UFC is a house built by DW and the Ferts, and all the fighters are just lucky enough to live there.
    Obviously the faith that those three had in this sport has a LOT to do with the success of the UFC, but to ignore all the sacrifices made by fighters to build the UFC brand is atrocious. Fighters need to unionize so Dana will have to stop treating them as expendable individuals.

  • Mark Bazid

    In the grand scheme of things this sport is still a baby. The fact that most of these guys are making a living is astonishing let alone getting rich.

    I wonder how much they would be earning without Dana and the UFC. My guess is not much.

    If they don’t like the pay then go to Bellator……oh wait, they pay much less then the UFC.

    • Timothy Malone

      I think MMA fans overestimate how big this sport is. they actually compare fighter pay to the pay of American football players for example. A single NFL team has higher attendance figures for its 8 home season games than the UFC has for all its events in a year combined. When the UFC is regularly filling 50,000 person stadiums rather than struggling to get 15,000, then fighters will be making as much as football players.

    • claudale

      How much would Dana be making witb ooutthe fighters? And the ufc m ton, pay is still pathetic for most.

      Tbe fighters would have opportunities without dana white. Dont forget he bougbt Pride so no one else could run it. And he went out of his way to put the others out of business with free shows and maintaining a black list

      • Mark Bazid

        The fighters would not have the opportunities that they have today without Dana White. Name someone who has done more for the sport that he has?

        You condemn him because he’s a good business man? You sound like a communist and we all know what happened to them.

  • Manuel Lopez

    DW is a POS

  • Maven

    How much do the Octagon girls make?
    How much does Bruce Buffer make?

    Once a fighter is in his second or third contract, with a proven track record and ranking, and a name that’s recognized and will contribute to PPVs, then they should be getting paid significantly more then the announcer or ring chicks. Perennial top fivers in particular should get six figures to step in the cage, but also with the understanding that they have to continue to earn that type of pay, and a future contract offer could be lower, or get the axe a la Fitch.

    To clarify, I don’t feel too much sympathy for fighters who whine, and I agree with White’s comments about a larger sense of entitlement pervading America (and the developed world in general). You chose your career, and the labor market is a risk in any field. Young fighters can still go to school and study, or work like Stipe Miocic or Shane Carwin did. No more WWA (Whiners weaken America) please. Get better or choose another career. The last thing I want to see is something like baseball where a relief pitcher gets 10 million a year that you never heard of. I would rather have a sequential meritocracy as it is now rather than overpaid prima donnas who aren’t even motivated to stay in shape in some cases.

  • COOPSTheNaughtyNomad

    I think fans and athletes need to put things into perspective here. Professional boxing has been around for 122 years! NFL for 93 years, NBA 57 years, MBL for 144 years!! The UFC has only been with us for 20 years and 13 of them under Zuffa. Give the sport time to grow and develop and be a part of our heritage. Success is your passport to money, not the other way round.

  • jay

    Ufc dont have exciting fights all they do is dance.
    At least bellator has fighters who look for the finish.