MMA union has been a hot topic for years. Back in 2016 there was a valiant effort to actually make it happen. The movement was spearheaded by Donald Cerrone, Leslie Smith, Georges St Pierre and more.
Back then, UFC had less of a grasp on the narrative. Enter Sam Alvey. Alvey went on to shade unions which is most likely why the UFC still keeps him on the roster despite not having won a bout in years.
“I’m strongly against the unions,” Alvey said. “I’ve said it before. The unions want to pay everybody the same amount, and I don’t support that. Conor McGregor earned his multi-millions by the way he runs his mouth and the way he wins. As much as I’m not a fan of his, I’m with that.
“With a union, he wouldn’t be worth that. He wouldn’t get half of what he’s asking. Now for some of the guys that don’t stand out like him, I think a union could do well. But I think that they are taking something from someone that has earned it.”
Now progressive politician Andrew Yang urged mixed martial artists to unite.
Yang went on to share:
“You know who is long overdue for a union? Both the WWE and UFC. UFC fighters get 10 – 15% of revenue. For other major sports it’s 50%. That means fighters are underpaid and should be getting 3 to 5 times more.”
“Fighters also have short careers, high risk of injury and substantial coaching expenses. The UFC maintains tight control over their uniforms, media obligations, etc. It’s clear the fighters are getting both controlled and exploited.”
“For WWE for the life of me I don’t understand why wrestlers aren’t members of SAG-AFTRA. They appear on scripted TV shows every week in front of millions. The WWE is selling digital rights for billions. But the performers don’t see a dime of that and can’t even go on Cameo.”
“Have I talked to fighters and wrestlers about this? Yes. It takes one or two to step up and risk their careers for the good of their fellow athletes and those that will follow. It’s a lot of courage because they know WWE and UFC will do everything they can to keep the status quo.”
“Leslie Smith took on the UFC and they fired her after she’d won a fight. She’s a class act. But the other fighters took note.|
“If the UFC treated its athletes like real pro athletes as in other sports their numbers would look very different, though it would almost certainly be good for the sport over time. You’d see more top-tier athletes move toward MMA if fighter comp went up 5x.”
“Any fighter or performer who wants to discuss what’s possible contact Lucas Middlebrook confidentially – we can help you and yours get what you’re actually bringing in for the organization and take care of your family.”
Yang is not wrong in his estimates. UFC 274 alone had 400,000 PPV buys at $74.99 or $99.98 so at the very minimum the promotion earned $30,000,000 from the event. And yet they’re still considering not sharing the next PPV bonus with the stripped Lightweight champion Charles Oliveira.
One of the most interesting sources on UFC financials is journalist John S Nash. Nash recently shared an interesting observation.
“According to this UFC paid McGregor $32m for UFC 264. Last year they reported he got $28m at UFC 257, or $60m total in 2021. If UFC is paying 17% to fighters (as they projected to hit their 50% EBITDA) then almost all of the increase in fighter pay since 2015 has gone to him.”
According to this UFC paid McGregor $32m for UFC 264. Last year they reported he got $28m at UFC 257, or $60m total in 2021. If UFC is paying 17% to fighters (as they projected to hit their 50% EBITDA) then almost all of the increase in fighter pay since 2015 has gone to him. https://t.co/leKcRR3kow
— John S. Nash (@heynottheface) May 11, 2022
“The other 2 possibilities is either A) UFC has been able to cut non fighter expenses much more than previously thought & have thus increased the share going to fighters, or B) they overestimated how much McGregor is getting paid, which we know they’ve done in the past.”
The other 2 possibilities is either A) UFC has been able to cut non fighter expenses much more than previously thought & have thus increased the share going to fighters, or B) they overestimated how much McGregor is getting paid, which we know they’ve done in the past. https://t.co/WuOAZBTVqG
— John S. Nash (@heynottheface) May 12, 2022
But it’s not as simple as Yang implies. UFC athletes are currently contractors – and not employees which presents an additional hurdle.