Many fighters have come out publicly against the UFC's new uniform deal with Reebok. Sara McMann has added a new wrinkle to the criticisms -- and she'll be consulting a lawyer about it.
The UFC women's bantamweight star and former Olympic wrestling silver medalist believes the pay structure is unfair to female fighters, she told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. UFC fighters will get money from Reebok based on the amount of fights they have under the Zuffa banner.
Women were added to the UFC just two years ago and, on average, don't have as many fights as the men do. McMann did her research and said 86 percent of women in the UFC will fall into the first tier of compensation, which is $2,500 for fighters with five fights or less.
"I feel like this is a really touchy subject just because if you look at the numbers and you look at the facts, there could be a strong case for gender inequity in the way this deal is presented," McMann said. "I think the UFC and Reebok would never want to be perceived as somebody who was treating an entire gender poorly."
McMann said she will be speaking to a lawyer, one who has experience in Title IX cases, about the situation and then will take her gripe to the UFC. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination in education, mostly college athletics.
"Gender equity is a very big deal," McMann said. "I'm not gonna come and make statements if I don't actually have backing, if I'm not in the right. I'm not gonna pitch a fit and throw a tantrum. I'm gonna come intelligently and say that really is not fair."
UFC senior vice president of public relations Dave Sholler told MMAFighting.com that the UFC will not be giving a statement on the subject at this time.
According to MMA mathematical analyst Reed Kuhn, 61 percent of total fighters fall into the pay structure's first tier. It's unclear the exact percentage of men who will make $2,500 per fight, but it's likely less than 86 percent.
"The women are just recently added, but that doesn't mean that these girls haven't been fighting for years or been in other sports for years and they don't deserve to be compensated for that," McMann said. "They deserve $2500?
"This is really something they really need to think about, because it does look discriminatory against an entire gender. So I think they probably will do the right thing and contact people and make personal deals. They've already done that with other people and I don't understand why they couldn't do that with the women."
Fighters with 6 to 10 fights make $5,000; 11 to 15 fights makes fighters $10,000; 16 to 20 amounts to $15,000; and 21 or more nets fighters $20,000. All champions make $40,000 per fight, including women's champions Ronda Rousey and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, though Rousey has a personal deal with Reebok. Title contenders get $30,000.
Women's fighters have only been in the UFC since January 2013. Strikeforce fights under the Zuffa banner are included as part of the tier structure, but there is only one UFC women's division that was also in Strikeforce: bantamweight. The strawweights all will be in the first tier, with the exception of Jedrzejczyk and challengers.
"[Men] are getting the majority of that chunk and we're being left high in dry because we were just recently added," McMann said. "That doesn't mean we haven't had full careers and these women don't deserve it. We're not the same as just a younger guy who just made it to the UFC. We shouldn't be treated that way."
McMann, 34, said she will be taking a significant pay cut under the Reebok deal, but that wouldn't bother her much if she was just one person. The fact that this scenario negatively affects all women in the UFC has her riled up.
McMann doesn't think the UFC and Reebok did this intentionally, which is why she wants to call it to their attention.
"I don't think that it was purposely, because if you look at it on paper it looks fair," McMann said. "I don't think that [the UFC] is out to screw the women. If they were, they wouldn't have even added them in to begin with."
But that doesn't mean she thinks it's OK.
"I wasn't going to make a statement without looking and examining whether I could back it up," McMann said. "That really is the case. It would be the equivalent if this were the civil rights movement and you decided to hire minorities and then you instill a policy that said the only way you can be applicable for a raise is if you have been with the company for five years. Well, automatically every single minority would be out of that running."