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Dana White Defends UFC Fighter Pay (Again), While Struggling New Fighters Are Forced to Crowdfund

(Roman Salazar is a cable guy, but in his spare time he’s a main card fighter for the most powerful MMA promotion in the world. Isn’t the sport supposed to have evolved past this point by now? / Photo via Getty)

By Trent Reinsmith

Let’s talk about money in the UFC.

I know this is as close to a mortal sin as you can get in the eyes of UFC president Dana White, but hey, he seems okay with putting his fighter’s business in the street, so I figure the door is open to talk about the subject.

White recently saw one of his most popular fighters, Wanderlei Silvarelease a video that put the UFC on blast for the way it treats fighters and compensates them. During the video, Silva said, “They (UFC) always hold on to the money so they underpay the athletes.” He also added, “If you’re not going to give the fighters money the minimum you can give him is respect. They use us to make rivers of money, because this event is making money. They don’t give anything to the athletes, only crumbs. They don’t respect us as athletes, they don’t respect us at all. They try to turn the public against us.”

Shortly after the Silva video surfaced, White did exactly what Silva accused him of, attempting to turn public perception against the fighter by portraying him as a spoiled millionaire that had no business complaining about the money he made during his employ with the UFC. The UFC president told Globo, “You know how much money Wanderlei Silva has made since he’s been with the UFC? $9.7 million So Silva says everybody’s getting rich except the fighters. What does Wanderlei considers rich? $9.7 million isn’t rich? A lot of people would consider that rich. Let me [tell] you what: Wanderlei Silva has fought six times in the last five years. He’s fought six times in five years. If being overworked is fighting one time a year, I don’t know what to tell you.”

I’m not going to lie, $9.7 million is a lot of money relative to what most MMA fighters earn, and Silva will still take home a healthy chunk of change after paying taxes, management and gym fees, food and (ahem) supplements from that $9.7 million. However, coming from the guy that travels around the world in a private jet and brags about taking casinos for $5,000,000 on a given night, White’s argument over riches is almost comical, especially when those riches are quite literally gained off the blood and sweat of fighters like Silva.

The other thing that I find bothersome about White’s claim that Silva pulled in $9.7 million is that there is zero proof that the number is real. The UFC, a privately owned company, is not required to provide full compensation numbers for its fighters, and it famously does not release those numbers. The only proof we have that Silva earned $9.7 million is the word of a man whose job description is fight promoter, an occupation that has always had a rather loose relationship with the truth.

This isn’t the first time White has gone down this road. When former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was on the outs with the promotion, White proclaimed that Jackson made $15.2 million during his UFC run. As with Silva’s $9.7 million, that number was entirely unverified.

On the flipside of White’s talk of how the UFC handed out millions to these crybabies that are complaining about pay, there are fighters like Nina Ansaroff and Roman Salazar.

Salazar made his UFC debut on Saturday night, fighting Mitch Gagnon on the main card of the UFC Fight Night card from Halifax. If you watched the event, you heard the UFC commentators comment multiple times how Salazar, in addition to being a professional mixed martial artist on the UFC’s payroll, is also a cable guy. A cable guy with a family that works that day job six days a week while also competing on the biggest stage in the sport he pursues.

You know what you never hear from other professional sports these days? How an athlete competing in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB has to work a job prior to practice in order to make ends meet. Sadly, it’s an all too common occurrence for the UFC and other major MMA promotions.

As for Ansaroff, she is set to make her UFC debut on November 8th, facing Juliana Lima on a Fight Night card in Brazil. Well, maybe she is set to make her UFC debut on that date. You see, Ansaroff seems to be a little short of cash in the weeks leading up to the fight. And how do we know that? Well, she’s taken to Go Fund Me to attempt to raise $5,000 to pay for her medicals, as well as get a plane ticket for her cornerman for the Brazil based event.

That’s another bad look for the promotion that is quick to tell you that their sport is bigger than the NFL or soccer. You don’t see NFL players on crowdfunding sites trying to raise money to pay for preseason medical exams, do you?

A Google search for “UFC Fighter Go Fund Me” revealed that Ansaroff is not the only UFC fighter that has had to go to the public with hat in hand in advance of stepping into the Octagon. Zak Cummings, James Krause and Lauren Murphy have had to take to Go Fund Me in order to get cornermen and training partners to their UFC debut fights.

It’s funny that White is so quick to put financial details out there when a fighter leaves the UFC with a grievance over money, while at the same time withholding most of the pay information for fighters on the active UFC roster. Well, it’s not literally funny, to borrow a word that White misuses often — it’s sad.

Ideally, White will stop with the childish and transparent attempts to paint former fighters as whining ingrates, while other fighters on the UFC roster are more or less begging for help or working full time jobs to make ends meet. If he can’t manage that, maybe it’s time for the UFC, and other fight promotions, to open up the books and show us all exactly what the fighters are getting paid. After all, that’s something that the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL all manage to do without the world coming to an end.

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