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UFC CEO addresses fighter pay criticism after record year for revenue

“It’s the athletes that make a difference, that people want to pay for… they’re commanding the big dollars.”

UFC 170 Mixed Martial Arts UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta with former women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Source: AP/Press Association Images

THE ULTIMATE FIGHTING Championship has faced many challenges in 2015, yet according to their chief executive officer, the company managed to generate more revenue than in any other year in its history.

Big fights were cancelled due to injuries, stars like Jon Jones had brushes with the law, others such as Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz failed drug tests, and high-profile champions like Ronda Rousey, Cain Velasquez and Anthony Pettis were unexpectedly dethroned.

Nevertheless, it was a good financial year for the largest organisation in the sport of mixed martial arts, and their newest champion — Ireland’s Conor McGregor — played a significant role in that.

In an interview with CNN, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta explained how the company brought in over half-a-billion dollars in 2015. However, as a private company, he didn’t abandon their long-standing policy of refusing to discuss profits.

“Because we’re a private company we don’t get into profitability, but we’ll generate about $600 million in revenue for the year 2015, which is a record for the company. And it’s fairly significant growth coming off 2014,” Fertitta said.

The UFC has often been criticised for the portion of revenue it allocates to paying its athletes. While the take-home-pay of champions like Conor McGregor is now in the millions, the featherweight champion is much better off than his peers.

UFC Fox Mixed Martial Arts UFC president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta. Source: Reed Saxon

For his UFC 194 win against Jose Aldo earlier this month, McGregor was paid a disclosed sum of $550,000 (salary plus performances bonus). However, this doesn’t take into account McGregor’s cut of the undisclosed pay-per-view sales (believed to be in the region of 3% to 5%), as well as his apparel partnership money from Reebok ($40,000) and other potential ‘locker room bonuses’, which are kept private. McGregor also has his own separate sponsorship deal with Reebok, in addition to other endorsements with companies like Monster and BSN.

At the opposite end of the spectrum on the UFC 194 card, debutant Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger was paid a disclosed $10,000. Jones-Lybarger also earned $2,500 from Reebok.

“At the end of the day, it’s an absolute open market. There’s multiple bidders in the marketplace. In fact, our number one competitor is Bellator, which is owned by Viacom, which have significantly more resources than we do, even though we’re kind of the leading brand in the space,” said Fertitta.

“The fact of the matter is our top athletes are making multi-millions of dollars and what is happening is as the sport grows, and compensation goes up as revenue goes up, you’re starting to see that the guys and girls at the top are commanding a larger share of that pie. I think you see that in just about every sport and every business.

It’s the athletes that make a difference, that people want to pay for… they’re commanding the big dollars.”

Bring more to the table and we’ll bring more to your bank account, appears to be the message. Or in other words: be more like Conor McGregor, by producing the goods both inside and outside the octagon.

Here’s CNN’s interview with Lorenzo Fertitta below…

Source: CNNMoney/YouTube

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Paul Dollery

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