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Dana White on Fighter Pay: Look at What Happened to Mike Tyson

Written by Tom Ngo
July 6th, 2012
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UFC President Dana White

This past January, UFC president Dana White (Pictured) trashed ESPN after “Outside the Lines” released what he perceived as a one-sided piece on what the planet’s premier mixed martial arts promotion pays its athletes. Surprisingly, White sat down for an extended interview with the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” this week to discuss, you guessed it, fighters’ salaries.

Finances once again became a hot topic after boxing legend Mike Tyson told “The MMA Hour” that MMA fighters are well underpaid. In addition, the UFC is set to host the most anticipated rematch in the sport’s history tomorrow when middleweight king Anderson Silva defends his throne against Chael Sonnen. Needless to say, blockbuster pay-per-view numbers are expected.

“The one great thing about UFC fighter pay is not too many know exactly what the fighter pay is,” White told ESPN. “I’ve had this discussion, me and Mike Tyson talked about it [on Tuesday]. He agrees. The bottom line is when we first signed our deal with FOX they came out and said, ‘Oh my God, these guys are getting paid this kind of money? Why don’t you scream that from the rooftops? Those are the kind of things that get people interested and engaged.’

“Whenever Tyson fought, people would talk about how many millions of dollars he was making after that fight, and I said to those guys, exactly. Now look at what happened to Mike Tyson.”

Tyson declared bankruptcy in 2003, despite having received over $30 million for several of his scraps and $300 million during his illustrious career.

White immediately turned the conversation towards his biggest PPV draw in welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. He claims fighters prefer for their paychecks to remain under wraps, and if they choose to flaunt their financial status, that’s their prerogative.

“If you notice, I don’t put any gag order on any of my fighters,” White added. “If Georges St-Pierre wants to run out and start telling everybody what he makes every year, that’s his [choice]. You don’t see him doing it, do you? They’re not running out telling everybody how much they’re getting paid. It’s a negative thing, it’s not a positive thing. It creates a lot of negativity and a lot of problems in these guys’ lives.

“There’s a fighter that we have named Rory MacDonald, and he came up underneath [St-Pierre]. People are calling him the ‘New GSP,’ including GSP. [MacDonald’s] saying already that, ‘I would never fight George St-Pierre.’ I said, ‘Really? Let him take a look at Georges St-Pierre’s bank account, he’ll fight him tomorrow.’”

It has been reported GSP earns roughly $5 million each time he takes center stage because he shares a piece of the PPV pie. However, it’s likely the superstar is pocketing more due to the top secret discretionary bonuses the UFC awards some of its fighters.

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