The UFC is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, but according to UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, they have no intention of paying him for the time spent training for UFC 215.
Johnson appeared on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss the fight cancellation and subsequent lack of payment (h/t MMAFighting.com's Marc Raimondi).
Johnson was scheduled to fight Ray Borg for a historical, record-breaking 11th title defense. A successful defense would have broken Anderson Silva's record. However, during fight week, Borg came down with an illness and pulled out of the contest, according to MMAFighting.com (h/t Sherdog.com's Tristen Critchfield).
Johnson put in eight weeks of training, but according to the champion, he won't be compensated because the UFC expects him to have a quick turnaround for UFC 216 on October 7. Johnson said that UFC officials told him he has to "fight and make weight" at UFC 216 to cash out.
The UFC has yet to respond publicly regarding the situation.
It is not a good look for the organization that a fighter can go through a full camp, miss out on a fight due to his opponent and not get paid a single dime.
Earlier in 2017, Tony Ferguson was stuck in a similar situation. Khabib Nurmagomedov was pulled from UFC 209 resulting in their fight being canceled. Ferguson was paid, but not his full show money. In an interview with Steven Marrocco of MMAJunkie.com, Ferguson called it a "slap to the face" that he received less than half of his show money for UFC 209.
Fighters pay out-of-pocket for their training camps. When a fight falls through, it becomes a sunk cost. The UFC has no obligation to pay the athlete. Training is not cheap. Fellow UFC 215 competitor Sarah Moras was absent from the Octagon for two years due to training costs, and she set up a GoFundMe in order to compete in Edmonton and announced it on Twitter (h/t BloodyElbow.com's Nick Baldwin).
The situation is not unique to the flyweight champ, but it is telling that even he cannot get show money to help cover the costs after he misses out on a title defense.
UFC 216 will be headlined by Ferguson's interim lightweight title bid against Kevin Lee, and it appears Johnson is on his way to the same event to defend his belt. Here's to hoping both men get paid their full amounts in October.