Fighter pay in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is always a hot topic. It always will be.
People want to get paid more money. That doesn't solely apply to fighters; we'd all like to make more. We all believe we're underpaid, that we're worth more and that if someone will just recognize our talents, we'll finally get what we deserve. It doesn't matter if it's true. It's just human nature to want more.
So I understand when people complain about not being paid enough. That's just the way we are.
Let's throw out the fact that they had a choice when they signed the contract to walk into the cage for the UFC and that nobody held a gun to their head and forced them to sign the contract. They had a choice: Accept what they were given and work their way to the top, or go somewhere else and try to find bigger wages.
Jon Jones chose the first option. For his first two fights in the UFC, Jones—then competing on preliminary cards—earned $7,000 to show and $7,000 to win. Nearly five years later, Jones received a $400,000 flat fee and a substantial undisclosed pay-per-view bonus for facing Chael Sonnen at UFC 159.
Jones—and I apologize for using something very close to the awful Drake lyric that is no doubt invading your precious head space every 10 minutes via the airwaves—started at the bottom, and now he's here.
He's the reigning light heavyweight champion, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport and one of the richest men on the UFC roster. He also started in the same place that nearly everyone else does: on the preliminary card, getting paid peanuts in exchange for the chance to prove that he had something great inside him.
UFC Vice President of Athletic Development and Government Relations and former welterweight champion Matt Hughes told Bleacher Report that he cannot comprehend why fighters in the modern UFC would complain about their salaries.
"You go back to when I first started. These guys are making as much now as I did when I won the belt," Hughes said. "How can these guys complain about their pay? I don't understand it. I really don't.
"Most of the guys that complain are guys who have been kicked out of the UFC. Like (Jon) Fitch. I like Fitch. I'm not talking bad about him, but I'm going to tell the truth. If people didn't buy a ticket or buy a pay-per-view to watch him fight, then what good is he? A lot of people found him extremely boring. And so he got let go, and he's not happy about it. But the facts are the facts."
Tim Kennedy, a middleweight currently on the UFC roster, made waves with his comments about the UFC's pay structure on the GrappleTalk Podcast prior to his UFC 162 win over Roger Gracie.
"It’s pathetic that so many fighters [have to have other jobs]…I’m one of the 3% of guys in the whole entire sport and it would be slim pickings to survive off what I make in fighting.
"Anybody who accepts that as a reality of the sport is sad and pathetic. I hope this isn’t the reality of the sport, if it is I should probably go do something else, like empty trash cans. I’d make more money than I do now."
Days later, Kennedy issued an apology for the comments. But he also said that he stood by what he said.
I asked Hughes if he's required, in his new VP role with Zuffa, to go out and police guys like Kennedy who make unfavorable comments about the UFC's business structure and pay scale. Is there anything he's required to do in order to keep some of the UFC's more vocal complainers on a short leash?
"No. Nothing at all. The good thing about the UFC is that these guys can have their own opinion. Nobody's going to chase them down," Hughes said. "Yes, they need to watch what they say in a hurtful or mean, malicious kind of way. But these guys have their own opinion, and the UFC knows that. And that's what they want. "