(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 Silva, release 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.