The subject of fighter pay in the UFC is always a sensitive one, with the majority of observers and fans firmly believing that the UFC’s fighters deserve a bigger slice of the pie.
With the UFC seemingly looking to keep its costs as low as possible, it should come as no surprise that the promotion’s had plenty of spats with its fighters over their pay.
So with this in mind, here are five UFC stars who priced themselves out of big fights with their pay demands.
#1 Jon Jones
The natural starting point for a piece like this has to be Jon Jones.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion has been at odds with the promotion for over a year now, feeling he’s underpaid.
Apparently, the UFC has offered Jones somewhere between $8m and $10m for the fight. That’s supposedly too low a figure for him, despite the fact that it’d dwarf his previous pay, which he’s claimed was around $2m per fight.
The issue here is that due to his up-and-down drawing history, nobody really knows what Jones is worth.
We also don’t know if that $8m-$10m figure counts a percentage of the UFC’s pay-per-view revenue, which has been the route to reported purses of around $25m for Conor McGregor, or whether it’s a flat purse fee.
Right now though, it definitely looks like Jones has priced himself out of the fight, with reports suggesting that the UFC are moving ahead with a fight between Ngannou and Derrick Lewis instead.
#2 Dustin Poirier
Dustin Poirier appears to have played his cards right when it comes to his payouts with the UFC.
‘The Diamond’ recently earned a hefty $1m in base pay for his fight with Conor McGregor at UFC 257, as well as a cut of pay-per-view revenue from the show.
And it’s likely he’ll make even more than that when he faces McGregor again in their third bout in July.
But we’re not too far removed from Poirier apparently pricing himself out of a slightly lesser fight, with former interim UFC lightweight champ Tony Ferguson at UFC 254 last October.
Reports suggested the fight was a done deal, but it was then explained by Poirier that he’d withdrawn from negotiations with the UFC.
The 32-year-old was quoted as stating “UFC and I didn’t come to terms...I’m a prizefighter, and the prize needs to be right”.
This idea was immediately refuted by Poirier, who stated that he was happy to fight ‘El Cucuy’ for the right money.
Of course, things probably turned out best for the UFC and for Poirier, thanks to the McGregor fights – meaning that any bad feeling between the two parties has probably dissipated.
#3 Jorge Masvidal
Despite being a part of the UFC roster since 2013, Jorge Masvidal has only recently developed into a major star for the promotion.
His knockouts of Darren Till and Ben Askren shot him to fame in 2019. And when he defeated Nate Diaz to win the UFC’s first ‘BMF’ title in November that year, it seemed the next step for him was a shot at the UFC Welterweight title.
However, when it came to finding a challenger for UFC Welterweight champ Kamaru Usman last summer, it quickly became clear that the UFC and ‘Gamebred’ weren’t on the same page financially.
The fight was reportedly offered to Masvidal, who turned it down, feeling he wasn’t being offered enough money.
And when the UFC instead matched Usman with Gilbert Burns, Masvidal hit out, claiming that the promotion was simply looking to give the fight to the cheapest option.
Burns, for his part, claimed he was more than happy with the money he was offered – and even stated that it was often better for fighters to not complain to the UFC about their pay.
Surprisingly, Masvidal did end up taking the fight – but only after the UFC agreed to pay him the money he was asking for when Burns was forced out due to COVID-19. He lost by unanimous decision.
And a year down the line, it seems that things are once again rosy between ‘Gamebred’ and the UFC, as he’s now signed up for a rematch with Usman – despite not fighting since his original loss to the champion.
#4 Jens Pulver
When the Fertitta brothers bought the UFC out back in 2001, one of the fighters expected to shoot to stardom was Jens Pulver.
‘Lil Evil’ won the UFC lightweight title at UFC 30 – the first show under the promotion’s new ownership – and with an exciting style, likable personality and plenty of charisma, the UFC seemed willing to push Pulver to the moon.
But even as he defeated challengers like Dennis Hallman and BJ Penn, behind the scenes, things weren’t rosy between Pulver and the UFC at all.
According to Pulver’s manager Monte Cox, the UFC intended to pay the 155lbers like “a bunch of cheapos”, and claimed Pulver was only paid around $22k for his win over Penn – which was the final fight on his UFC contract.
And so when it came to Pulver’s planned next title defense at UFC 38 a few months after his fight with Penn, ‘Lil Evil’ and his team refused, demanding more money.
This sent UFC President Dana White into a rage – and caused Pulver to leave the UFC, heading to Japan to fight for more money and dumping the UFC lightweight belt in the process.
‘Lil Evil’ would not return to the UFC for over four years – and despite his early successes, he still hasn’t been inducted into the UFC’s Hall of Fame.
#5 Randy Couture
In late 2007, when the UFC abruptly announced that its reigning heavyweight champion Randy Couture had retired – only for ‘The Natural’ to actually claim he’d resigned from the promotion, it was clear that something was amiss. It appeared to be primarily an issue with Couture’s pay cheque.
UFC President Dana White appeared to put the blame on Couture’s willingness to fight then-PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko – who the UFC had failed to sign following botched negotiations.
But Couture was making some other noises.
He was quoted as saying that he was “tired of swimming upstream with the management of the UFC”.
He also suggested he wasn’t happy with his most recent disclosed pay of $250k – which he claimed was less than what former foe Chuck Liddell made, and also less than the figure offered to Emelianenko.
And so within days, Couture went from being one of the UFC’s poster-boys to a persona non-grata with the promotion. He was even barred from cornering fighters on his team at one point.
Like with most of these spats though, cooler heads eventually prevailed. Couture returned to the UFC a year later to face Brock Lesnar – and surprisingly, was reportedly paid the same $250k that he was making prior to the argument.