Fighter payouts in the UFC continue to be an ongoing issue in 2013, and now "The Iceman" Chuck Liddell has some tough words for those criticizing the UFC.
Okay, look. I just had this conversation with a top-10 fighter, and he's saying the same thing. [Lower-paid] guys have got to understand, this is a performance-based sport, like all sports. You fight good, you win, you get paid. Alright? You're starting out, no one knows who you are, no one cares, you don't get paid. Period.
Although Liddell is one of the most recognizable people in MMA history, his career didn't get started with all kinds of fanfare and a hefty paycheck.
"I mean, my first contract (that) I was offered by the UFC, or my second contract, it was 1-and-1, 2-and-2, 3-and-3. That's $12,000 for the year. Don't complain to me about fighter pay. It was $12,000 for a year, and it was exclusive."
Liddell got to where he is by winning and winning impressively. It's a model he suggest other, lower-tier fighters follow to reach the gold pot at the end of the rainbow.
The fighters at the top are the fighters that are supposed to get paid because they're the guys that are bringing people in, bringing eyes to the TV, getting pay-per-views buys, and putting people in the seats. I mean, that's what it comes down to. You want to get that? Beat everybody. Be good enough. If you're not good enough to get there—sorry. It's not a welfare state.
You picked the wrong sport. Hey, you made a good run at it. You tried. Eh, try another sport because this one doesn't work for you.
It's no surprise the Liddell is defending the UFC in this. After all he's an official employee for the UFC as the UFC's executive vice president of business development. He's also close with UFC president Dana White, as White used to be his manager and the two have a well-known friendship.
Like all discussions about fighter pay, the person talking has some good points along with some flaws. Liddell is right that MMA is a performance-based sport and that to earn money you must win.
He's also right that the top-level guys are the ones filling the arenas and should be rightfully rewarded for what they contribute to the UFC's bottom line.
At the same time however, the lower-level guys usually aren't able to afford the type of training necessary to move up the rankings or hire a good agent to negotiate a pay raise.
To be fair, Liddell is also right about fighters knowing what they're getting themselves into. Amateur and professional fighters know MMA isn't where the money is. If guys are getting into the sport in the hopes of making money, they're setting themselves up for disappointment.
Still, fans are upset at seeing the UFC grow as a company while seeing fighter pay for the lower-level guys not progressing in similar fashion. Until fighters either create a union or fans create enough of an uproar, expect the status quo to remain the same.