Dana White isn’t budging when it comes to complaints about fighter pay from Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal, and it doesn’t appear he’s going to change his stance, no matter how much anybody argues with him.
Over the past week, White has been hit with numerous jabs from Jones and Masvidal over their compensation as recent negotiations hit a brick wall.
Jones erupted after the UFC scoffed at his request for higher pay when a potential heavyweight fight against Francis Ngannou was in the works. Meanwhile, Masvidal claimed the UFC offered him less money to fight for the welterweight title against Kamaru Usman than the paycheck he received for his previous showdown with Nate Diaz.
Masvidal also raised issued about overall fighter pay problems where the UFC pays out a much, much smaller percentage of revenue to athletes when compared to other major sports leagues like the NFL or NBA.
“Jon Jones just signed a new deal less than a year ago,” White countered when appearing on ESPN’s First Take. “He’s got eight fights left on his deal. What do you want me to tell you? The guy’s got a deal.
“Same thing with Masvidal. Masvidal just signed a new deal seven months ago. These guys both got brand new deals that they were more than happy to sign less than a year ago.”
When pushed on the fighter pay question by retired cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who previously worked with the NFL Players Association, White doubled down on the contracts he signed with Jones and Masvidal in the past year.
“Does anybody feel like they make too much money?” White said. “Nobody does. If we were talking about a thing where these guys had old contracts from three years ago and it’s like ‘that was three years ago that I did this deal, let’s [renegotiate].’ They signed these less than a year ago. This was months ago.
“By the way, I don’t know if you know this but we’re in a pandemic and no other sports are going. Oh, by the way, every other sport out there is arguing about money right now. I haven’t laid off one employee. I haven’t asked any of my fighters to take less money, and you don’t hear me out here crying about, ‘No, I don’t get any gates, I don’t have this, I don’t have [that].’ You don’t hear me crying. I’m running my business. I’m paying everybody. Right now, if you think it’s easy to be a business owner right now here in today, you are right out of your mind. There has never been a harder time to do business than right now. Guess what? I’m pulling it off.”
Foxworth then fired back at White while pointing out a similar issue that Masvidal raised recently when he said the UFC maintained absolute leverage over athletes with a “take it or leave it” approach to contract negotiations.
“Saying that they just signed contracts doesn’t speak to the leverage that they have in negotiations,” Foxworth said. “Just because they signed contracts doesn’t necessarily mean the contracts are fair.
“I’m not informed enough to know whether contracts are fair or not, but I understand when there’s a track record of a number of athletes over a period of time having an issue with someone or a company, then that seems like a group that needs unionization in order to have the leverage to get the things that they want.”
While numerous efforts to organize fighters into a collective bargaining unit have been undertaken, none have ever been formed that actually represented a majority of athletes.
White didn’t directly address the call for a union, but he defended the UFC’s state of affairs.
“Welcome to the fight business, my friend,” White countered. “So right now we’re in a pandemic and all this stuff is going on. We just signed a contract eight months ago. You see me saying, ‘Oh no, no, this is going on and that’s going on, I have to pay you less money.’”
“No, I’m paying them exactly the same amount of money no matter what’s going on. In the history of this company, I’ve never asked a fighter to go backward, ever. I have 630 fighters under contract and we’re talking about two.”
As an athlete who saw the benefits that a union had for players in the NFL, Foxworth obviously believes that the complaints being lodged by Jones and Masvidal probably speaks to a larger problem existing in the UFC.
“I do know the ins and outs of sports labor,” Foxworth added. “I know that when you have a bunch of angry, upset athletes, there’s normally a reason why they should be angry and upset.”