(Sanchez’s contract is officially for eight more fights, but the UFC reserves the right to take him out behind the shed at any time and put him out of his misery. / Photo via Getty)
By Jon Mariani
With Daniel Cormier and Diego Sanchez both inking new eight-fight deals with the UFC recently, following an eyebrow-raising 10-fight contract extension for Anderson Silva earlier this year, long-term contracts have become a disturbing trend in the UFC. And it begs the question: “Why everybody’s doing that? Why?”
MMA contracts are unique among professional sports, in the sense that long-term agreements aren’t necessarily beneficial to the athletes. The deals that Cormier and Sanchez signed with the UFC bear absolutely no resemblance to the 15-year, $67.5 million dollar “lottery ticket” that NHL goalie Rick DiPietro signed in 2006. After failing to live up to expectations, DiPietro’s contract was bought out in 2013, at $1.5 million a year for the next 16 years.
That’s what a contract is, after all — an employer’s obligation to pay a certain amount of money for services rendered. What the UFC offers its fighters is something different. It’s like a contract, but not exactly, and it results from the uniquely lopsided power structure in this sport, where there’s essentially one major-league team and no player’s union.
In MMA if you fail to live up to expectations and lose fights, your contract can simply be terminated at any time, and for a variety of reasons. When Eddie Alvarez‘s contract was made public, outsiders got a chance to see the long list of scenarios in which the UFC can cut an athlete loose. As the article’s author Jonathan Snowden notes “So, all those UFC contracts that claim to be for eight or 10 fights? That’s only true if you keep winning. Otherwise, the contract is only as long as the UFC wants it to be.”
A quote from that article, from Northwestern University labor law professor Zev Eigen, shows how imbalanced contracts are for UFC fighters: