Sean Strickland: If there was NFL money in the UFC, there would not be one foreign champion

UFC middleweight contender Sean Strickland recently addressed the issue of American representation in the UFC. According to Strickland, the low pay structure within the organization is the primary reason for the lack of American dominance in the sport.

Despite being headquartered in the United States, the UFC boasts a diverse roster comprising athletes from all over the world. This global approach has allowed the promotion to appeal to audiences worldwide and establish itself as the premier MMA organization.

However, Strickland believes there is a noticeable disparity. He points out that while the UFC does feature numerous American stars, they are not as prevalent in the top rankings. Out of the 12 weight classes, only three Americans currently hold championship titles: Aljamain Sterling, Jamahal Hill, and Jon Jones.

Strickland argues that there should be more American representation at the top. He attributes this imbalance to the UFC’s comparatively low payment structure, which he believes diminishes the motivation of Americans. In contrast, foreigners may find the payment more favorable due to currency exchange rates.

During an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Strickland highlighted the case of a Brazilian friend who, despite being a lower-ranked contender, was able to afford a decent lifestyle, including buying a new house and supporting a family.

“It’s kind of funny talking about the UFC and money. I have a buddy, a Brazilian guy, a contender guy, a really good guy. Anyway, he just bought a new house and has a kid. The average house in Brazil to buy is like $200,000. Like, maybe even less. I mean, that’s like a nice house, a nice house. So, you see a lot more foreigners in the sport. And you’re like, why are there more foreigners in the sport? America’s [expletive]? No, because they can’t afford it,” Strickland expressed.

He further emphasized that the UFC’s practice of starting guys at relatively low base salaries, such as $10,000 to show (plus $10,000 to win) attracts foreign athletes who can live comfortably with that income in their home countries.

Strickland also believes that the UFC finds it easier to work with foreign athletes due to the logistical and financial advantages they bring.

“So again, I think that’s also a big reason why we’re seeing fewer Americans. Because, you know, they’re taking our jobs. It’s easier to import them, man. These are important fighters, and they go back home to Dagestan or Brazil and they live their life,” Strickland added.

Drawing comparisons to other major sports such as American football and basketball, where athletes earn substantial salaries and American dominance is evident, Strickland suggests that a similar scenario could unfold in the UFC if fighters were adequately compensated.

“But if there was NFL money in the UFC, we would dominate the UFC. There would not be one foreign [expletive] champion,” Strickland concluded.