Russell Peters knows his combat sports. He was an amateur boxer for nine years, is a longtime fan of the UFC and a close friend of several fighters, like Cung Le.
So the well-known comedian has an informed opinion about the state of MMA. And his take isn't too positive. In an interview with Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Peters took the UFC to task for oversaturation, being a monopoly and underpaying fighters.
"It really is hard to follow the sport and I'm a fan," Peters said. "I think the problem is that UFC made it about their name as opposed to the fighters. I think that worked in the beginning, the rebranding. And that really saved and created a genre."
Peters, the third highest grossing comedian in 2013 per Forbes, was a huge PRIDE fan and became slightly disenchanted when the UFC purchased the popular Japanese MMA promotion. He also didn't like what the UFC did after buying both PRIDE and Strikeforce.
"They shouldn't have bought PRIDE and Strikeforce and just eliminated them," said Peters, who has also trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with former UFC fighter Carlos Newton. "They should have kept them and then instead of UFC Fight Night, they could have had PRIDE night or Strikeforce. It gives you some sort of scope and then puts UFC at a higher level. 'These are our lesser ones, here's the big one.' But if you call everything UFC ... somebody was like did you catch the fights last night? I was like, 'What f---ing fights? I didn't know there was fights.'"
The UFC has addressed -- and denied -- accusations that it is a monopoly on multiple occasions, but Peters believes the organization's stronghold over the MMA industry is an issue.
"When UFC starts buying stuff and then getting rid of it, I'm like, well that's just monopolizing a sport that doesn't need to be monopolized," he said. "There's enough for it to go around. You don't need to be the only guy in town. ... You do want to be the only one standing. But if you own them all, does it really matter? You're still the only man standing. It's more for perception, really. Perception is everything."
Peters, 44, said he always bristled when people said in the past that MMA has overtaken boxing as the most popular combat sport. Peters trained in boxing for nearly a decade and is the longtime friend of former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
"I hated when people said that, because I was like no, that's not the case," Peters said. "It's popular right now, but you have to understand boxing has been around forever and there's far more money to be made in boxing. I think UFC or MMA could have come up if the fighters made more money. But I think everybody is underpaid."
Peters said his MMA fighter friends have not complained to him about their purses. But he believes it's because "they don't really know any better." Peters cited Floyd Mayweather's outlandish prize money and "lesser fighters" also making millions as reasons why MMA athletes are not getting their just due financially.
He also doesn't understand why the UFC has cut ties with big-name stars like Tito Ortiz and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Ortiz fought Stephan Bonnar at Bellator 131 on Nov. 15 and it ended up being the most watched MMA fight of 2014 so far.
"I think that's a mistake that you're cutting these guys," Peters said. "What you're doing is you're enabling Bellator to come up more, because these are names people know. If you're not a huge MMA fan then you're not going to know who Johny Hendricks is or Ben Rothwell or Anthony Pettis. You're not going to know these names. But you know the Tito Ortizs, you know the Chuck Liddells, you know the 'Rampage' Jacksons."