After fighters clicked open their Inboxes to read Monday’s frosty email informing them that the UFC had in fact been sold to a group led by talent agency giant WME-IMG for a whopping $4 billion, there was a sentiment that pay raises could soon be coming their way after their new bosses cracked opened their big wallets.
Yeah, about that…
Why would WME-IMG do that? Because they feel bad for the fighters who have risked life and limb to make the UFC what it is and to want repay the massive debut left behind by the previous owners? Let’s not forget, just because the Fertitta brothers took their loot and bounced doesn’t mean that UFC president Dana White (pictured) has.
White has built a reputation for being the stingiest of strong-arm negotiators when it comes to haggling over fighter pay during his 15 years at the helm.
WME-IMG purchased the multibillion-dollar company knowing there’s a winning formula already in place – pay the fighters peanuts while lining their own pockets with gold at every event.
Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta are the ones who shelled out $2 million to purchase the fledgling UFC back in 2001, and proceeded to lose boatloads of more cash until “The Ultimate Fighter” miraculously came along in 2005. They’ve been reaping the financial benefits ever since.
Because the Fertittas were the ones who rolled the dice, it was understandable that they should realize the rewards once the UFC started turning a profit. While their bank accounts skyrocketed, the fighters’ didn’t ascend at anywhere near the same rate, if at all.
If the Fertittas weren’t willing to pay its athletes more money following a $2 million investment, do the fighters actually think WME-IMG will after shelling out $4 billion for such a volatile product?
Sure, a bump in salary would certainly boost morale, but why would WME-IMG have to make good on someone else’s past wrongs? MMA fighters don’t know any different – well, they do but are scared ishless say anything publicly. Keep in mind, that outside of a handful of fighters, everyone on the UFC roster can be easily replaced. And everyone is fully aware of that.
Unlike the NBA, where players receive approximately 50 percent of the league’s revenue and get life-changing raises when the NBA collects from television deals, there’s no fighter’s union in the UFC to scratch and claw for their best interests.
The UFC isn’t an MMA monopoly, but it is, and WME-IMG knew that when they set Monday’s record-purchase price for a sports franchise.
However, these new owners can bring new opportunities for fighters outside the cage. Just because their fight purses won’t inflate doesn’t mean WME-IMG can’t help them find other revenue streams. As a mammoth talent agency, WME-IMG can easily push their fighters possessing the intangible “it-factor” into the mainstream. At the same time, there are only so many Ronda Rouseys (who is already represented by WME-IMG), Conor McGregors and Paige VanZants on the UFC roster.
When the ink dries on the $4 billion contract, unfortunately for the fighters, they will soon realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same.