The chances of being knocked unconscious while writing about the UFC are pretty slim, in fact even experiencing mild pain is a rare occurrence. It would be fair to say that most occupations out there do not come with the risk of a D’arce choke.
Conversely, this is the reality of life as a UFC fighter. Whether it is sparring in the gym or competing in the octagon, taking punishment often occurs on a regular basis. Literally putting their 'all too human' bodies on the line, it is easy to understand that fighters want to be fairly compensated.
Here are five fighters who feel undervalued by the UFC.
5. Stipe Miocic
Stipe Miocic, the former UFC heavyweight champion, was scheduled to defend his title for the first time against Alistair Overeem at UFC 203 in 2016. Stipe put in a great performance, recovering from an early knockdown to claim a first-round stoppage.
He wasn’t so happy when he found out that Overeem, the challenger, had been paid $200K more than the current heavyweight champion - even though the UFC had promised the champion "the best deal." Stipe then made an appearance on The MMA Hour, publicly stating that it felt like ‘a slap in the face’.
4. Colby Covington
At UFC 225 Colby Covington defeated Rafael dos Anjos to claim the interim welterweight championship. A title unification bout against official champion Tyron Woodley appeared to be on the cards at UFC 228, but Covington required nasal surgery and was forced to pull out. Not only was the rescheduled fight with Woodley now off the table, but the UFC also stripped Covington of the interim belt. He was again overlooked at UFC 235, as Kamaru Usman beat Woodley to claim the welterweight title.
Feeling exacerbated and undervalued, Covington provided one of the most entertaining UFC moments outside the octagon when he confronted Dana White at a blackjack table in Las Vegas. The fact that Covington even fought again in the UFC after this incident is perhaps a testament to his skills as a fighter.
3. Jorge Masvidal
Since ‘Gamebred’ Jorge Masvidal knocked out Ben Askren within five seconds at UFC 239 in 2019, he has become a fan favorite with over 700K subscribed now to his YouTube channel. His follow up victory against Nate Diaz a few months later was his biggest purse to date, an estimated $500K.
Before Gilbert Burns pulled out of his fight with Kamaru Usman at UFC 251 (eventually replaced by Masvidal on short notice), Masvidal publicly criticized the percentage of revenue paid by UFC to its fighters. While Dana White likened a UFC fighter to an independent contractor, ‘Gamebred’ definitely saw things differently.
2. Nate Diaz
Both Nate Diaz and his brother Nick have had a difficult relationship with the UFC over the years. Similar to Stipe Miocic above, Nate Diaz was under the impression he was getting a respectable deal from an eight-fight contract in 2012. Little did he know that renegotiating that deal was dependent on defeating Benson Henderson for the lightweight title - which he didn’t.
Frustration grew from Diaz in the following years, as his basic pay to show for each of the next four fights would not exceed $20K. This led to the infamous call-out of Conor McGregor after his victory over Michael Johnson in 2015. However, a fight with McGregor wasn’t initially entertained by the UFC.
Luckily for Diaz, Rafael dos Anjos pulled out of his fight with McGregor at UFC 196, and Diaz was ready to fill in on short notice. He not only became the first fighter in the UFC to defeat McGregor, but he also made $500K for just showing up. The rematch earned him a whopping $2 million. Even though his next fight against Leon Edwards has just been announced, his relationship remains tentative with the UFC.
One thing is for sure: He certainly won’t be accepting $20K to show up anymore.
1. Jon Jones
Universally hailed as the greatest MMA fighter, Jon Jones is no stranger to controversy. He has had many chaotic personal incidents in his life and several fighting suspensions over the years, which has led him to spend a lot of time away from fighting. The fact remains though, barring disqualification and a no-contest, he has won every single fight he has ever competed in.
You would think that a fighter who is widely considered the best will be paid the most, but that is often not the case in the UFC. Jon Jones certainly thinks he is worth more. He vacated the light heavyweight title last year, the basic pay of $500K was not enough - especially when he was planning to move up to heavyweight to fight Francis Ngannou. Jones mentioned he wanted "Deontay Wilder money" - referring to Wilder’s massive purse against Tyson Fury.
While this talk dissipated somewhat in 2020, it has reared its head again in the past week. Previously Ngannou had been a challenger, but now that ‘The Predator’ is the heavyweight champion, a superfight for the ages may be on the horizon. The familiar back and forth between Jones and Dana White is in full flow again, let’s hope it is true that every man has his price.