Hours after ESPN's Outside the Lines aired an investigation of the way the UFC pays its fighters, the UFC released its own video of a portion of UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta's interview with ESPN -- a portion that didn't make it on the air, in which Fertitta said UFC fighters make better money than boxers who fight on ESPN.
In that interview, Fertitta points out that ESPN is in a better financial position than the UFC, and yet boxers who appear on ESPN's Friday Night Fights make less money than fighters who appear on basic cable fight cards in the UFC.
"ESPN's gonna make $2.8 billion," Fertitta said. "ESPN -- do you know what fighters make on ESPN fights? There was a guy who walked away in this last fight here in Vegas. ... He walked away with $275 for a four-round fight."
Fertitta said that compared with what those boxers make, the UFC's typical entry-level fighter pay of $6,000 to show and another $6,000 if they win is a good contract.
"I think six and six is pretty good compared to that," Fertitta said. "There's multiple guys on those ESPN cards that make in the hundreds of dollars. I can tell you that our fights that we put on cable, on Spike TV or on Versus, we pay ten times to the fighters what ESPN pays to their fighters. Ten times. And we don't make $2.8 billion. I can tell you that right now."
ESPN and the UFC aren't completely comparable, as the UFC is a promoter, while ESPN is a broadcaster that pays a license fee to boxing promoters. And ESPN reporter John Barr acknowledged in the Outside the Lines piece that entry-level UFC pay is "far in excess of the paydays for many boxers who, at the lowest levels, fight for hundreds of dollars a night."
But Fertitta makes a fair point: Will Outside the Lines also investigate how much the boxing promoters who do business with ESPN are paying their boxers?
Fighter pay is an important issue that should be tackled by journalists. But it's an issue in both boxing and MMA, and ESPN's report could have been strengthened by providing more context by contrasting the pay of UFC fighters with the pay of boxers.
UFC President Dana White said that his company taped Fertitta's entire interview. It remains to be seen whether the full, uncut interview will be made available to the public, either by the UFC or by ESPN.