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Dana White lashes out at question about fighter pay in the UFC

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Fighter pay in mixed martial arts has always been a hot button subject with athletes and promoters. But lately, the topic has been in the headlines quite often.

A court battle with ex-UFC fighters, who claim the promoter engages in anti-competitive business practices, has uncovered the money paid to contractees over nearly two decades.

From 2011 to 2017, the UFC paid out approximately 20 percent of its total revenue to the fighters, drastically less than most major sports leagues where 50 percent typically goes back to the athletes. The UFC forecasted similar figures for 2020 with around 20 percent compensation going to the fighters.

In addition to that revealing information, the UFC has been criticized by its own stars. After the promotion failed to come to terms with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and former interim champion Colby Covington on title fight at UFC 244, Covington went public with his complaints. He told MMA Fighting that the UFC came at him with ‘hostage negotiations,’ claiming “They said, ‘Take this, or we’ll just move onto someone else.’”

On Thursday during a Q&A with fans on Twitter, White was asked, “Why are you so cheap and pay fighters less than what they should be paid?” The question received quite a response.

“First of all, you’re a dick,” White said. “Let’s start there. And you don’t know what fighters get paid.

“Everybody wants more money. Everybody needs more money. That’s always going to be an issue.”

The dispute over fighter pay is nothing new. But numerous athletes got more vocal after the UFC was sold to a group led by Endeavor for just over $4 billion in 2016.

Later this year, Endeavor is expected to go public. The IPO could bring in more than $600 million, including close to $50 million expected to be used for operating costs for their various companies.

The UFC is already a self-sustaining entity and one of the most profitable companies currently operating under the Endeavor umbrella.

Whether any of that will change the UFC’s policies for fighter pay remains to be seen. But with projected estimates already in place for 2020 for payouts, it seems likely this debate will rage on for quite some time.