UFC lightweight Al Iaquinta (pictured) might be riding a four-fight winning streak, but he’s most certainly going to lose his next battle. No, I’m not referring to the previously scheduled UFC 205 tango against Thiago Alves, because that scrap has been scrapped due to a contract dispute.
Iaquinta, who has been riding the pine for the past 17 months recovering from knee surgery, was initially stoked when the UFC offered him a fight in his hometown of New York. However, as “The Ultimate Fighter 15” runner-up sifted through the bout agreement, he quickly realized that he’d be taking a heavy financial hit thanks to the UFC’s exclusive sponsorship deal with Reebok.
“I got the contract and I was just looking at it for a couple of days. I was like I just can’t sign it. I can’t do it,” Iaquinta told FOX Sports. “I felt like it wasn’t right. I talked to my manager, I said listen I really want to fight in New York. There’s nothing I want to do more than fight in New York, but I can’t take a pay cut for this fight.
“I’m taking a pay cut from all of my sponsors. I’m taking a pay cut of all the last 18 months of the sponsors that could have been. I told (my manager) that I wanted more. I wanted to have a conversation with the UFC and see if they would do some kind of negotiation because when I signed my contract, there was no Reebok deal.”
Based on Iaquinta’s tenure with the UFC, he stood to make only $5,000 from Reebok. According to the 29-year-old, me pocketed more than that from just one sponsor in his past fights.
When Iaquinta posted a split decision win over Jorge Masvidal in his last outing, he was still allowed to secure his own endorsements. Now there’s a new uniform sheriff in town and he’s forcing the UFC’s entire roster to be decked out from head to toe in generic Reebok gear.
Iaquinta broke in his new four-fight UFC contract extension against Masvidal, three months before Reebok’s agreement kicked in. The UFC isn’t obligated to renegotiate anything, but Iaquinta was hoping they would fiddle with his salary given the financial hit he’s taking after losing most of his sponsors.
As you’d expect, that conversation didn’t go as Iaquinta had hoped – especially since he’s skating on thin ice after receiving his “third strike.”
“I don’t think they were really entertaining any negotiations whatsoever,” Iaquinta said.
Iaquinta trashed his hotel room after beating Joe Lauzon in 2014, then cursed on live television following a tough victory over Masvidal. The New Yorker then skipped the UFC Fighter Summit in Las Vegas because it was five weeks out from a then-scheduled fight with Bobby Green. He also claimed to be sick at the time, only to post pictures on the beach days later.
The UFC put him on performance bonus probation, meaning he would not be eligible for any $50,000 performance bonus over his next three fights.
In the fight business, you only get paid if you play. Since he’s been on the self for 17 months, Iaquinta has had to dip heavily into his depleted savings just to stay afloat.
To make matters worse, Iaquinta says that because he’s been unable to fight due to his knee injury, the UFC sent him “an extension to my contract, which is saying because I can’t fight they’re going to extend my contract until I can fight. That’s it, it’s a done deal.”
Iaquinta said the UFC offered him $26,000 to show and another $26,000 if he beat Alves at UFC 205. According to Iaquinta, that’s essentially fighting for free.
“There’s nothing left. I’m fighting for free,” Iaquinta stated. “God forbid I get injured again and I’ve got nothing left because I spent it all on the last injury, keeping my head above water. If anything were to happen, there would be nothing left. It scared me. Even if I do win, I’m going to have to fight again in a couple of months. Am I going to be able to walk up a flight of stairs with my kids when I’m older? Am I going to be able to play with them? Probably not. Is it worth this money? No.”
Of course, Iaquinta isn’t the only one fighting this uphill battle. Former UFC welterweight king Georges St-Pierre announced months ago that he was ready to return to action. However, the UFC has slow played renegotiating St-Pierre’s deal to a snail’s pace.
St-Piere, the most decorated welterweight champ in UFC history and the company’s biggest pay-per-view draw during his heyday, claims he too would be losing money if he returned under the terms of his previous contract due to Reebok’s exclusive sponsorship rights.
Given St-Pierre’s clout in the MMA world, it’s hard to imagine he won’t eventually receive a deal that he likes. Iaquinta is no GSP, however. He really doesn’t have much choice, other than to not fight and pursue a career change.
He says he makes some money teaching MMA classes and personal training. He also has a real estate license that currently allows him to live “comfortably.”
That’s the harsh reality of dealing with the UFC, most of the contract negotiations are of the take-it-or-leave-it variety. Iaquinta, like many others desperately clawing for their shot at the brass ring, took it. And now he’s paying dearly.