MMA Fighters vs The UFC: Revenue Share and Lawsuits

Tensions have always been high between the UFC and its roster of fighters. Unlike other sports leagues, where the profit sharing is closer to 50/50 between the athletes and the organization, the UFC pays its athletes just 10 to 15% of revenue.

Famed sports agent Jeff Borris (who has repped every MLB juicehead from Barry Bonds to Jose Canseco) even went so far as to try to start a UFC Fighter’s Union back in 2016.

How Does the UFC Revenue Share Stack Up?

Fighters are constantly complaining they are underpaid, but what does the data show…

Redditor u/rambouhh put together a detailed analysis of the revenue share between organizations and athletes in the major sports vs the UFC. The results are shocking.

Sports OrganizationOrganization’s Revenue SplitAthlete’s Revenue Split
NBA49%51%
NHL50%50%
NFL52%48%
MLB48.5%51.5%
UFC85-90%10-15%

I knew that MMA fighter pay was low, but I had no idea it would be so out of whack of the norms in other professional sports.

Fighters’ Class Action Lawsuit vs the UFC

In 2014, legendary UFC fighters including Jon Fitch, Nate Quarry, and Cung Le filed a class action lawsuit against the UFC. They alleged the fighting organization violated antitrust laws by suppressing fighter wages.

The root of the lawsuit is the “fair market value” fighters believe they are owed. While competitors like Bellator, ONE Championship, Combat Jiu Jitsu, and Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship have made some headway – the UFC is still far and away the largest mixed martial arts promotion. Fighters in this lawsuit believe that the UFC is dominating the industry and using this leverage to dictate the terms and contracts handed to fighters.

Back in December 2014 when the lawsuit was first filed, the UFC quickly responded on their website:

The UFC will vigorously defend itself and its business practices.

– Ultimate Fighting Championship. December 2014.

Since then, they’ve managed to basically stall the lawsuit through a series of clever legal maneuvers.

December 2020 UFC Class Action Lawsuit Update

On December 10th 2020, a Las Vegas federal court judge ruled that a class action lawsuit brought by fighters will be allowed to proceed. This was an unprecedented ruling that will move forward a case that has been stalled for years.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs (fighters) include some class action “heavyweights” that have scored massive settlements against companies like Google, Dow Chemical, and Countrywide Financial. The UFC has some serious exposure here if the case goes sideways for them.

This YouTube video from The Body Lock was an excellent breakdown, and prediction, of the class certification that was granted to the fighters in their lawsuit against the UFC.

Dana White is known for having a hot temper, and he sure as hell isn’t going to take this news well. It will be interesting to see how the lawsuit progresses, and I’ll update this post with any breaking news as it comes in.

What do you think is going to happen? Do the fighters deserve more of a say in contracts and athlete compensation? Let me know in the comments.

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