After claiming better money last year, Jorge Masvidal said he was “leading the charge” for better pay for fighters in the UFC. But these days, he just doesn’t know how some 600 independent entrepreneurs come together to make it happen.
Ask him if his story and Jake Paul‘s repeated criticism of UFC pay could lead to better pay, the answer is an emphatic no.
“Fighters are very individual creatures,” Masvidal said recently on MMA time. “We had to get together under a roof, or something, and have everyone’s best interests at heart, so that we could sit down with everyone together. And that, in itself, is a problem.
Several groups attempted to organize the fighters into some type of collective bargaining unit, but fizzled out after initial renewed interest. The Mixed Martial Artists Fighters Association remains one of the only active groups in the industry, although it has recently focused on supporting change through the courts and the legal system, supporting an ongoing antitrust case against the ‘UFC and lobbying to include MMA in the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.
Masvidal, who aims to return to the Octagon in late 2021, agrees that as it stands, incentives are misaligned for fighters at different stages of their careers. Newcomers are happy to enter the UFC and keep the status quo going, while the stars focus on maximizing the profits it may have taken them over a decade to achieve.
The “floats” in the middle are crippled by one of dozens of ways an octagonal quarry can slow down, and they’re often just trying to survive.
“I want every fighter on the list to get what they deserve, but it’s crazy,” Masvidal said. “The next guy out of the UFC might be happy about this and that, and you know what it is.”
Masvidal’s fight came to light when he turned down the UFC’s offer to fight Usman at UFC 251 for what he said was less money than he earned for taking on Nate Diaz at UFC 244 in 2019. The promotion eventually came back with a better offer which tied its end result was tied to the success of the pay-per-view event.
The numbers from the July 2020 fight produced a massive boon for Masvidal. Despite a second loss to the UFC welterweight champion nine months later, he remains a draw for promotion. It’s a position that took him over 16 years to achieve, and he came with countless ups and downs in the Octagon before a series of lightning-fast performances that opened the eyes of UFC fans to his talent and personality.
Masvidal said his mission is to ensure that fighters receive their fair share of the income generated from their work in the Octagon. According to court documents filed in an antitrust case against the UFC, the promotion expects to pay no more than 20% of that income to fighters. “Gamebred” quoted a recent Twitter chart that put it at 16%, the share that went to fighters in 2012, according to internal projections made public through the lawsuit.
Like many fighters who go public with their complaints, Masvidal believes things will change someday, and he’s not sure what the catalyst will be.
“I think in the future something will happen, but I don’t know,” he said. “I hope more people keep drawing attention to this, because I think it’s messed up. I think they just re-posted the percentages of [revenue going to athletes] for Bellator and other organizations, how much more they give. It’s crazy.”