UFC president Dana White has a simple message for all current and future UFC fighters: “This isn't a long-term f****** job. You don't come into the UFC thinking, man, I'm going to stay here until I'm 65 and then I'm going to retire, get a pension and do this, that and the other. This is a f****** short-term gig.”
What started as a question about Stephan Bonnar’s final days as a UFC fighter took a detour into the harsh reality of the life of a professional athlete. More specifically, the conversation centered on the reality of the life of an athlete who steps into a cage and tries to separate another athlete from consciousness.
White continued, “You have a window of opportunity that's about this big, if you're lucky. If you're talented enough, and you get in there and you do as many amazing things as you can in front of as many people as you can and make as much money as you can, and enough contacts and this and that, so when that inevitable day that will finally come when it’s over you put yourself in a great position where you can move on and do better things, and if you figure it out right, you don't ever have to work again. Who the f*** on this planet doesn't understand that?”
Judging from the horror stories in other sports, apparently, there are a fair number of individuals who don’t understand that. One of those athletes was actually cageside for UFC 162 on Saturday night—Mike Tyson.
Tyson, who made tens of millions of dollars, was left “totally broke” after leaving the sport that made him famous.
While White can point to his friend Tyson as a cautionary tale, he can point to another fighter who managed to do things the right way. That fighter is recent UFC Hall of Fame inductee and former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
“Forrest Griffin always says this: 'go out and fight like you, but go to the bank like me.' Which means he's cheap as hell. Forrest Griffin is still wearing the jacket he wore in Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter. He's still driving a Scion. Scion is going to do a commercial about how many miles this kid has on his car, and it’s still running.
Forrest Griffin is a cheap motherf*****, and that's the way you have to be in this business. Save your money, put it away, do the right things with your money, because this sport, your time can be over any minute. This isn't some long-term gig.”
Somewhere between the wild spending and wearing eight-year-old jackets, there is probably a happy medium for a professional athlete, but the message White was sending was pretty clear. It doesn’t matter what the pay is, at some point it’s going to go away, and odds are that will be a lot sooner than any athlete thinks.
*All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report unless noted.