UFC President Dana White shrugged off contract concerns raised by star fighters Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal by noting their status as independent contractors.
Steven Marrocco of MMA Fighting provided comments from White, who argued fighters have the freedom to do pretty much whatever they want, including the right to decline fight offers:
"These guys are independent contractors. This isn't like the NFL, where I can make you—you come to practice, and you do this, or you're going to get fined. These guys can do whatever they want. They can say whatever they want. I had a big thing the other day with a reporter about fighter pay. They can come out and tell you what they make any day of the week. They can do any of that stuff. These guys can do whatever they want. They don't have to fight.
"And we're not begging people to fight. We're offering fights, because in our contract, I have to give you three fights a year. I owe you three fights a year. You have the ability to turn them down and not take them. So they can do whatever they want."
Although White's comments are accurate on the surface, they don't provide the entire picture. For example, UFC competitors aren't free to fight for another promotion if offered more money.
In addition, Marrocco noted a standard UFC contract allows the company to extend the deal an additional six months if a fighter turns down a bout, creating a potentially endless cycle.
Masvidal, who's spoken out after negotiations for a July fight against Kamaru Usman broke down, responded to White's comments via Twitter:
The dispute comes on the heels of Jones challenging White to release him from his contract Sunday:
"I said it when we were going through the pandemic and the media was asking me, 'What if the fighters are worried and don't want to fight?'" White said Friday. "Well, you don't have to fight. Anybody that doesn't want to fight doesn't have to fight, including Masvidal and Jon Jones and all these other guys, and it doesn't have to be because of a pandemic."
The situation has created unexpected drama for the UFC as it prepares to host its milestone UFC 250 event Saturday night at its APEX facility in Las Vegas. Amanda Nunes will defend the UFC Women's Featherweight Championship against Felicia Spencer in the main event.