After dominating the light-heavyweight department for 10 years, Jon Jones is shifting as much as heavyweight. This is, if he doesn’t retire from the Final Preventing Championship first.
Jones tweeted closing week that he had had a good dialog with the U.F.C. about negotiating to transport up from the 205-pound department to heavyweight, the place combatants can weigh up to 265 kilos. However his optimism got here most effective hours after he stated he had vacated his light-heavyweight belt and could be taking part in the U.F.C. as a fan as a result of there were “no negotiating” about his wage.
It’s been that more or less summer time for the U.F.C., the place along with working out degree occasions in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, two of its greatest stars retired and two others brazenly regarded as it.
Henry Cejudo, who held belts in each the flyweight and bantamweight divisions, retired in Might however reputedly left the door open to go back if he have been paid extra, announcing the U.F.C. president, Dana White, “is aware of the quantity.” The U.F.C.’s best-known fighter, Conor McGregor, retired in June, for a minimum of the 3rd time. Jorge Masvidal additionally threatened to retire, prior to accepting a struggle on every week’s understand at U.F.C. 251 in July.
Possibly all 4 combatants began considering severely about retirement on the similar time. Much more likely, on the other hand, is that all of them identified the facility of retirement as a negotiating tactic. As a result of the lengthy, unique, ironclad contracts combatants should signal with the U.F.C., threatening retirement is without doubt one of the few leverage issues celebrity combatants have.
“The U.F.C.’s industry fashion, the genius of it, is that during battle sports activities you might be made through who you beat,” stated John Nash, who has coated the industry of blended martial arts for nearly a decade. “The one method you’ll change into a made man is thrashing guys who’re already in long-term contracts within the U.F.C., and the one method you get to struggle them is to signal a long-term contract.”
The U.F.C. didn’t make an govt to be had for an interview, and representatives for the combatants didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Whilst those aren’t the primary U.F.C. combatants to threaten retirement in the midst of negotiating a freelance, the sheer quantity suggests one thing has modified. The U.F.C. makes much more cash than it did a number of years in the past, particularly after securing a large new tv settlement with ESPN in 2018, and is now owned through a miles better company entity, Enterprise.
Warring parties are newly mindful that they’re jointly paid most effective lower than 20 % of the U.F.C.’s earnings — in comparison with the more or less 50 % athletes obtain within the greatest workforce sports activities — on account of paperwork launched closing yr in a long-running antitrust lawsuit that could upend the U.F.C.’s business model.
“If I’m bringing in XYZ dollars, giving me 18 percent of those dollars that I bring in, it’s not fair, man,” Masvidal said on “SportsCenter” in June, directly connecting the revenue-sharing level to Jones and Cejudo.
“So what they tell you to, at a certain point in your career — like they told Jon Jones and Henry — is, retire. If you want more money and you’re not getting it. Well, we’re not going to let you go, so what you’ve got to do, retire.”
Historically, the U.F.C.’s revenue has largely been tied to pay-per-view success. A few big pay-per-view fights could lead to record revenue, giving the fighters some measure of negotiating power if they were names fans would pay to watch. The U.F.C. needed them. But in 2019, ESPN became the exclusive distributor of U.F.C. pay-per-view fights domestically, paying a set amount annually and gaining much of the upside from big events.
The U.F.C. is now incentivized to deliver a number of events each year, prizing a large roster of fighters, and is less incentivized to give a fighter a big raise to ensure a popular pay-per-view draw.
Most U.F.C. contracts have a number of clauses that give the U.F.C. tremendous power over their fighters. They have tolling provisions, which pause the contract if the fighter is injured or otherwise does not fight, meaning fighters cannot refuse fights and wait for their contracts to run out. There is also the championship clause, which automatically extends the contract if a fighter becomes a U.F.C. champion.
The iron grip the U.F.C. has on its fighters fueled its growth, and in many ways makes it friendlier to spectators than boxing. Fighters don’t spend years taking cupcake fights to pad their records, and top fighters don’t spend years avoiding the mega-bouts fans desperately want to see, like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. did. There is no alphabet soup of confusing sanctioning organizations.
The differences look a lot less rosy to the fighters, however. The boxer Saúl Álvarez, known by his nickname Canelo, signed an 11-fight deal that pays him over $30 million per fight, much more than any U.F.C. star. McGregor’s biggest payday came when he boxed Mayweather in an exhibition, not from any of his U.F.C. title fights. And when Jones agitated for more money to move up to heavyweight earlier this year, White, the U.F.C. president, used a shorthand to describe how outlandish he found Jones’s request.
“He told my lawyer he wants what Deontay Wilder was paid,” White told MMA Junkie, referencing the reported $30 million Wilder was paid to fight Tyson Fury in February.
When Jones defeated Dominick Reyes in February, the 11th time he successfully defended the light-heavyweight belt, his purse was just $500,000, though it is not known if he received a percentage of the pay-per-view money or other bonuses. Jones tops the U.F.C.’s own pound-for-pound rankings; why shouldn’t his earnings approach Wilder’s?
Many of the rights boxers enjoy are enshrined by the federal Ali Act. Its provisions include a ban on coercive contracts, and it mandates that promoters disclose how much money they make from fights. But the law does not apply to mixed martial arts, and a bill to extend it to all combat sports has stalled in Congress for four years.
The U.F.C. builds up stars quickly. Just 14 months ago, Masvidal was hardly a household name. It took just one spectacular knockout in five seconds, and a victory over the fan favorite Nate Diaz in front of President Trump, to transform him into the type of athlete whose antics and utterances are regularly featured on “SportsCenter.”
It knocks them down quickly, too. After a decisive loss to Kamaru Usman in July, it isn’t clear whether Masvidal can quickly challenge for a belt again. Ronda Rousey was one of the most famous athletes on the planet when she took her first two losses in 2015 and 2016, and then decided she had better career prospects in professional wrestling and in Hollywood.
The best chance for fighters to gain negotiating leverage to carve out longer and more lucrative careers is most likely a lawsuit that was filed against the U.F.C.’s parent company in 2014. The lawsuit accuses the company of having both an illegal monopoly and monopsony power, which is when a buyer of services — in this case, a buyer of mixed martial arts fighting services — faces little competition. While other mixed martial arts organizations exist, like Bellator, the U.F.C. has most of the world’s top fighters.
The federal judge overseeing the case is expected to rule soon on whether to grant it class-action status, which would make around 1,200 fighters claimants against the U.F.C. If granted, the fighters could win billions of dollars, as well as structural remedies like a ban on long-term contracts.
That would most likely tamp down the retirement talk within the sport.