"They get zero percent" - Ariel Helwani goes off about fighter pay in the UFC

Ariel Helwani (left), Dana White (right) [Photo credit: @arielhelwani on Instagram]
Ariel Helwani (left), Dana White (right) [Photo credit: @arielhelwani on Instagram]

Now that he no longer works for the UFC's official broadcast partner, Ariel Helwani is once again free to express his hard-hitting opinions regarding the world's largest MMA organization. A few weeks after leaving ESPN, Helwani spoke out about the hot-button issue of fighter pay.

As a guest on Dan Le Batard's show, Helwani criticized the UFC's uniform deal with Venum and their fight kit sponsorship deal with Crypto.com. He pointed out why those business moves are good for the UFC but unfair to the fighters.

"A $175,000, 000, 10-year deal. The biggest in UFC history. Guess what percentage of that money is going to the fighters?"

Ariel Helwani asked the show's hosts and producers to guess how much they think the fighters are earning from the UFC's deal with Crypto. The lowest guess was 7%, while the highest was 30%. To their surprise, Helwani revealed:

"The actual retail price is zero percent. Zero percent for the fighters. Just like the zero percent that they get from the TV deal. Just like the zero percent that they get from all of those other sponsors that are all over the cage."

The UFC previously signed a six-year deal with the sporting goods giant Reebok worth $70 million in 2014. The fighters took a financial hit as they were disallowed to wear their own sponsored apparel into their fights.

According to the UFC, the move was implemented to make the fighters and the overall product look uniform and more presentable. But Helwani pointed out that the deal wasn't only hypocritical, but having a set of uniforms also took away from the fighters' uniqueness.

"I remember Mike Tyson: black shirt, black boots, black shorts - iconic stuff. I remember Chuck Liddell with the blue, the ice. Tito Ortiz with the fire. Now you want them to look all the same? You want them to look uniform?" the MMA reporter said.

Ariel Helwani's rocky relationship with Dana White

Ariel Helwani points to the time he broke the story about Brock Lesnar's return to the octagon as the breaking point in his relationship with UFC president Dana White. The MMA reporter said White was furious with him for "ruining" the surprise.

Ariel Helwani with Daniel Cormier and Chael Sonnen [Photo credit: @arielhelwani on Instagram]
Ariel Helwani with Daniel Cormier and Chael Sonnen [Photo credit: @arielhelwani on Instagram]

Helwani found himself in a dicey situation when the company he was working for, ESPN, struck a broadcast deal with the UFC. The 38-year-old journalist implied that White was one of the reasons for him leaving the network.

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Edited by Utathya Ghosh
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