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UFC responds to accusation that Reebok deal is discriminatory to women

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Sara McMann believes the UFC's uniform contract with Reebok could be discriminatory to female fighters. In a statement released Thursday, the UFC said that it would be standing by its tiered payment structure based on tenure.

The statement reads:

"The new UFC Athlete Outfitting Policy (AOP) equally recognizes each athlete's tenure in UFC, as well as any bout appearances in the WEC and Strikeforce for the period those organizations were under the Zuffa, LLC ownership. Women fighters with limited bouts under the tenure model are treated the same as other experienced men or women new to UFC from other organizations not included in the tenure model. This new policy was designed to provide an equal opportunity for both men and women in each tenure tier. In addition, the champions and challengers, regardless of tenure, will be equally compensated under the AOP for their bouts, something few other sports can claim."

McMann said Tuesday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani that she would be seeking counsel from a lawyer, because she felt like the payment structure was unfair to women.

McMann's argument is that women were not allowed in the UFC until 2013 and, therefore, will have organically less fights than men. McMann said 86 percent of women fall within the first tier of the Reebok pay structure, which nets fighters $2,500 per fight from the deal. The women's strawweight division just debuted late last year.

"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 also said she would be taking a steep paycut since the UFC will no longer allow fighters to wear their own sponsors in the Octagon or during UFC related events. Many other fighters, not just women, have also come out publicly against the Reebok deal saying they would be losing a big chunk of income. MMA manager Mike Roberts told earlier this month that 85 to 90 percent of his fighters would be negatively affected.

Data from MMA mathematical analyst Reed Kuhn of Fightnomics shows that 61 percent of UFC fighters fall within the first tier. It's unclear the exact percentage of men's fighters who do, 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?"

Fighters with 6 to 10 fights will make $5,000 per fight; 11 to 15 fights will make fighters $10,000; 16 to 20 gets fighters $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.

Both Rousey and Paige VanZant each have separate, individual deals with Reebok, which presumably earns them more money.

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