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Examining the UFC Fighter Contract: Both Sides of the Tale
Recently the UFC released their much talked-about but unknown fighter contract. Fighter pay has been a touchy subject concerning MMA for some time, with most thinking that fighters are vastly underpaid when compared to boxing. Lorenzo Fertitta offered some explanation of this discrepancy while unveiling the contract. It appears to be a pretty specific set of provisions for UFC fighters. Let’s take a look at some of the main points.
Fertitta initially spoke up with a clarifying statement to explain that the UFC does not work like other major professional sports:
“First and foremost, we absorb 100 percent of all production and marketing costs associated with the event. The NFL gets a license fee from FOX. Even boxing gets a licensing fee from HBO. Those media entities then roll in and operate the entire production. They do all of the marketing. So those expenses are not borne upon the actual league or entity. In our case, we televise the entire card. There’s over a thoUSAnd people who get paychecks when we do these events. It’s a massive, massive undertaking.“ – courtesy of Bleacher Report
The owner has a good point here, as he is bankrolling the entire operation himself. Still, coupling the pay-per-view revenues with other licensing is obviously big business for the UFC. Fighters do have to sign their likeness away for all promotional needs, something that has been controversial in the past:
2. Fighter hereby grants to ZUFFA the exclusive worldwide right to use, display, disseminate, edit, reproduce, print, publish and make any other use of the name, sobriquet, image, likeness, voice, persona, signature, and biographical material of Fighter and all persons associated with Fighter (collectively, the “Identity”), in any medium in connection with advertising, marketing, exploiting and promoting the UFC brand and each Bout and the exploitation of all rights pertaining thereto as provided herein and all rights to each Bout electronic and other (the “Ancillary Rights” and, collectively with the Promotional Rights, the “Rights”).
This is one of the many extensive articles put forth by the contract. Rather than posting all of them consecutively, I’d rather pose the question asking whether this signing away of so much to Zuffa is fair to the fighters. True, their fame is most likely due to the large amount of exposure they would garner from fighting in the UFC, and maybe it’s a small concession to make for most fighters. In any case, they need to get as much exposure as they can, because they can be fired for losing any single MMA bout at any time, as explained by Article X of the contract:
d. Fighter is not declared the winner of any mixed martial arts bout (whether promoted by ZUFFA or not) by the Athletic Commission or official authority having jurisdiction over the bout
The UFC fighter contract does seem to be quite the ironclad proposition for fighters, but after all, it is the biggest promotion in MMA, and the sport would most likely die without it. Fertitta also noted that the UFC has created 70 millionaires to this point.
While the argument as of late has focused on fighters not being paid enough, there is the instance of non-declared bonuses and back-end revenues based upon pay-per-view buys. It appears from the contract, that as long as you keep winning (preferably impressively), you will keep your job. Pretty cut-and-dry when you look at it like that. And although MMA is growing fast, it still has many miles to go before it can be grouped with professional baseball, football, and basketball.
There’s an argument to be made for both sides, as you could say that the fighters are enjoying the fruit’s of the world foremost mixed martial arts promotion, while others would say that fighters deserve to be making much more declared salaries as their purse. I tend to believe that some may deserve more at times, but again, we don’t know of any locker room bonuses handed out behind closed doors. Fighting in and of itself is a bit cutthroat as a sport obviously, so it really doesn’t come as a surprise that the fighter contract comes off that way.
What are your thoughts on the UFC fighter contract? Do you agree with Fertitta’s focus on them putting on the entire show, or is that non-circumstantial given the amount of money the events bring in? Should UFC fighters have to sign their likenesses away in the contract? Does it even matter? And is the UFC’s firing policy too strict, or do they truly need to trim a burgeoning roster to keep the talent the best it has ever been? The fighter contract raises many debates on the current state of MMA negotiations, speak up with your comments below!