Josh Emmett had a lot to think about when booking his next fight.
Originally, the featherweight contender plotted his return in January for a fight against Arnold Allen that would have finished his UFC contract. At the time, Emmett was considering free agency to see what other opportunities might be available to him.
Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in training that forced him out of that fight and back to the sidelines.
“I felt like I was worth so much more,” Emmett said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “But looking back to even getting injured, that’s kind of a blessing in disguise, because there’s always a silver lining to something in my career, in my journey. I have setbacks and then something bigger and better comes.
“If I would have tested free agency and possibly went somewhere else, who knows what would be going on with me right now.”
Once he was ready to compete again, Emmett and his management team came to terms with the promotion on a new deal that satisfied his needs.
Ultimately, Emmett knew he wanted to stay with the UFC, but it was always about being paid what he considered a fair wage for his services. Now he’s scheduled to face Shane Burgos in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN 11, with the winner undoubtedly taking a big step forward in the featherweight top 10.
“I’m happy with it,” he said. “Shane [Burgos] kind of did the similar thing. He tested free agency. I heard he took less money to stay with the UFC, but at the end of the day, I want to stay with the UFC because I feel it’s the biggest, best organization out there. They’re the highest platform.
“Just knowing what he did and seeing what went on there, I felt like I needed to bypass that and not even go through that step. So I’m happy with it. It’s a new four-fight deal.”
According to Emmett, the UFC actually wanted to give him an eight-fight deal worth more money. But he didn’t want to be tied down to a longer team deal, especially as he hopes to enter title contention over his next couple of fights.
Long term UFC deals have come up often lately, as fighters like Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal have been openly battling with the organization over the money they’re earning for high-profile fights. In Masvidal’s case, he signed an eight-fight extension, but stated repeatedly that the UFC’s negotiating tactics were essentially “take it or leave it” if he wanted to fight.
While Emmett is in a different situation than Jones or Masvidal, he knew inking an eight-fight deal right now didn’t make much sense for him.
“They wanted to lock me in at eight fights, but I felt like there would be no room for growth,” Emmett explained. “I’ve been with the UFC for four years, over two of those I’ve been sidelined and I’ve only got eight fights in those four years. That would have been almost the rest of my career cause I hope I have a good four or five years left.
“Then after watching ‘The Last Dance,’ I felt like I would have got Scottie Pippen’d. No room for growth. I would have been willing to take a little less money to get a shorter deal, and that’s kind of what I did. It’s a good contract. For only having eight fights in the UFC, I’m making more than veterans who have had 20-plus fights in the UFC. So I really can’t complain.”
Emmett is referencing the much-publicized documentary “The Last Dance,” which followed the Chicago Bulls winning six NBA titles. While Pippen was a huge part of those championship teams, he also inked a long-term contract with the team that most believed vastly underpaid him.
Emmett didn’t want to find himself in that same situation, so he opted for a four-fight contract, which would then allow him to renegotiate for an even better deal once he’s knocking on the door of title contention.
In the end no matter what was offered, Emmett understands that everybody on the roster is probably underpaid but he also knows that fighting is all he wants to do.
“I just think for what we do and the sport is so brutal, and there’s no job security, and your last fight can be your last or in practice,” Emmett said. “I still don’t think it will ever be enough for what we do unless people are getting paydays of like $1 million or $2 million just to show.
“I took a little less, but I am happy with it. At the end of the day, I just have to win fights, the money will come, the title will come, I just have to be 100 percent focused on the task at hand and the person in front of me, because you can’t overlook anyone. You can’t, cause we’re fighting some of the best fighters in the world and just a small mistake can cost you the fight or cost you your career. It almost did with me two years ago.”
For now, Emmett is satisfied with his paycheck and he hopes to put himself in a position to earn even more with a standout performance this weekend.
While Burgos is actually ranked below him in the featherweight division, Emmett sees this as the kind of fan favorite fight that will allow him to add another highlight to his resume as he beats another top 10 fighter.
“He gets hit quite a lot and there’s a lot of guys in the division ranked above me and they get hit a lot but my teammates, my boxing coach, they know those certain fighters couldn’t take those shots from me,” Emmett said. “I don’t care what weight class. If I hit someone clean, I’ll put them to sleep. I feel I just possess more power than anyone in the division.”
“I feel like I need to beat him and looking forward, I feel like I will get someone in the top five. I could be two fights away [from a title shot]. I feel like a big win over Burgos, give me someone else and it could be a title eliminator and that’s what I’m striving for but I have to go beat him.”