If it wasn’t for the UFC’s over the top freakout over ESPN’s Outside the Lines segment on fighter compensation, no one would even be talking about pay figures right now. Fans are generally sick of athletes complaining about the money they make and while MMA fighters probably are underpaid, good luck trying to carry that ball far during today’s recession.
But the UFC did freak out – Dana White spent several days leading up to the program bashing the piece, unintentionally setting it up as ‘must watch’ television. The UFC released two videos countering the story – the complete 40 minute interview ESPN had with Lorenzo Fertitta and an edited collage of fighters talking about how happy they are with how they’re treated. Both videos included a part where Lorenzo gotcha’d ESPN by pointing out some fighters on their boxing cards made as little as $275 for a fight.
Apples and oranges? Sure. But a solid zing none the less and a nice ‘remove thyn own log before pointing out the mote’ moment for Lorenzo. Except his example may not even exist. Bloody Elbow’s Brent Brookhouse noticed the $275 boxer may not exist:
However, tonight I was organizing Nevada’s boxing payouts for last year, putting together a database for Bad Left Hook, and I got to the event in question and noticed something.
There was no fighter on the show who made only $275 for their fight.
There were four fighters on the card who were in four round fights. Timothy Hall, Jr. was 2-10 in his last 12 fights and was paid $2,500 gross for his losing performance on this card. His opponent, Badou Jack, made a gross purse of $2,000. Razvan Conaju made a disclosed $500 (more on him in a moment) and his opponent Kourtney Boden scored $1,000.
Conaju is a former Olympian from Romania and I think this is a case where the disclosed pay doesn’t tell the whole story, especially given that he made $3,000 for his pro debut a few months earlier. Still, not a $275 payout.
This is just the latest accusation of truthiness to be thrown around in this big dumb story. ESPN says fighters are terrified of speaking about pay on the record. The UFC says ESPN were fishing for malcontents and would ditch interviews when they didn’t get the dirt they were looking for. ESPN put Ken Shamrock forward as a legitimate news source. Lorenzo Fertitta invented a $275 boxer. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all pretty stupid.