UFC has something called the monopsony on the MMA market. Monopsony is a concept that describes a market with a single buyer. Currently UFC is estimated to have 90% of the MMA market share.
This plays a factor in negotiations and is often very important to consider when it comes to contract negotiations.
While UFC has a lot of flaws – they also hold more events than any other promotion per year. UFC puts on 40 to 45 events every single year.
In December, UFC matched two then undefeated prospects: Bryce Mitchell and Ilia Topuria. Mitchell was supposed to face Movsar Evloev in November but Evloev pulled out.
This meant that Mitchell was now on the market for a new opponent. UFC offered Ilia Topuria but Mitchell struggled with wanting to pull out due to the fact he was sick with the flue.
Mitchell told ESPN:
“I had a couple thousand bucks in my bank account and they (UFC) told me that, ‘If you don’t take this fight, we’re not finding you one until February’. They said they’re booked. So, it’s like you can live off a couple thousand bucks in your bank or you can f**ing fight Dec. 10 and if not, f**k off until February.”
“I said you know what, I don’t want to live on a couple thousand bucks until February. I would have made it because I could have scrapped by, and maybe I should have, but at the time, I thought I’d win”
Despite his confidence in himself, Mitchell acknowledges that if money situation was more favorable, he most likely would not have been on UFC 282.
Mitchell just had no clue how miserable he’d feel when it came time to really compete.
Mitchell stated: “To say it wasn’t a factor, that would be a lie. I’m not complaining about my financial situation. I’m very happy, I try to invest my money, especially in the real estate, farmland, whatever.”
He continued: “If I could go back, I probably wouldn’t even have shot a single takedown, but in the moment, I was not accepting what I was capable of. If I would have readjusted my strategy, I know I could have done better, I could have probably went all three rounds,” he concluded. “I really gassed myself out shooting a lot of takedowns and stuff like that.”
But while Mitchell isn’t begrudging this, it’s a frequently used tactic for UFC brass. Both Nate Diaz and Francis Ngannou have come out and talked about getting ‘benched’ and basically not offered events for a while.
And in case you think that’s a myth, it was a commonly used strategy to get athletes to resign. Paul Gift’s Forbes article cites a deposition that provides an insight into business tactics UFC utilizes.
Jon Fitch replied in a deposition:
“I’m saying they do that to everybody. ‘We’re going to hold your bout agreement until you sign your extension. We won’t allow you to become a free agent.’”
Former UFC light heavyweight Kyle Kingsbury said:
“[UFC president] Dana [White] really controlled how our careers went. … He might sit you on the bench for a while. That’s happened to numerous fighters.”
And while Mitchell’s case is benign in the grand scheme of things, this is a part of a reason why many MMA athletes go on to compete injured and push on through situation that no other pro athlete would tolerate.