Most people want to get paid more money for what they do. Those, like UFC athletes, who are at the very top of their field and who also work for the best and most profitable company in their industry, certainly fall into that category.
No. 1 light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson is the latest UFC fighter to express displeasure at UFC pay. "For all the hard work and the sacrifices fighters generally make to fight, I think they're a little bit underpaid," he recently told MMA Junkie.
"The same thing with the Reebok deal, too. I don't have anything negative to say about it, I just think, why take away from fighters who haven't established themselves in the organization? They have a hard time already so why take away the small sponsors so they can pay the rent and pay their bills? Why take that away, too? [It is] really squeezing that last money from the fighters that haven't been established, yet. I think it's sad to see."
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Like many other top sports organizations, the UFC now has exclusive licensing deals for things like uniforms, video games, action figures, and drinks. However, unlike the majority of athletes who play in major leagues or associations (MLB, NFL, NBA, etc.) UFC fighters don't get any collective say in what type of royalties, if any, they receive for wearing those uniforms or having their names and likenesses being used by corporations because they aren't represented by an athlete's union.
For example, when Reebok became the official outfitter of the UFC, a payment structure for fighters was dictated to the athletes instead of negotiated, collectively. As a result, many fighters are losing substantial income fighting for the UFC compared to what they used to make because their old sponsors are now disallowed from fight weeks and nights, and the Reebok payment structure -- based in large part on seniority -- often doesn't come close to making up the difference.
If Gustafsson were in charge of the UFC, the number one thing he said he'd want to do is, "pay the fighters a lot more money."
At the end of the day, what could have been considered one of the most important steps in the UFC's growth, leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the athletes, like Gustafsson, who made it possible. "This Reebok deal," he concluded, "is not going to help the fighters."