With the UFC generating an estimated $600 million in revenue in 2015, there is considerable debate as to what portion of their profits are paid to fighters. While stars like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey are making fortunes, fighters slightly further down the food chain fight for relative pittance, with many fighters making an average of $24,500 per year. The controversial fighter contracts of the UFC have been discussed in depth on this website here.
Bantamweight Aljamain Sterling is among the top five fighters of his weight class, and has been one of the few fighters who has publicly complained about what fighters are getting paid. On September last, he posted on his Facebook page that such low pay may force him to quit the sport: "If you aren’t at the top of the game in your division, count your blessings if you’re able to retire with any money, and with your body and brain intact".
Sterling was on Newstalk's Off The Ball last night, where he described his latest contract offer from the UFC as 'laughable'. The offer was "twenty and twenty", meaning a $20,000 payment with a further $20,000 paid should he win the fight:
The contract was so low that it's kind of laughable, in my opinion, so I don't have a problem mentioning the numbers. For the last contract, before the fight - maybe a week and a half or two weeks beforehand before the fight - they offered me twenty and twenty, with three grand increases [per fight] until the title fight. I was scratching my head, like, are you serious?
The terms of his contract are such that Sterling would likely earn just $46,000 should he win the fight immediately prior to a title shot.
All of the figures paid to Sterling by the UFC are gross figures, and he revealed that he still has to pay chiropracters, massage therapists, coaches and managers along with paying tax and paying for the food necessary to keep him competitive. He estimates that the fees for doctors and food alone comes to between $3,000 and $5,000 per fight.
Sterling believes this offer is too low for a fighter both of his quality and marketability, and criticised any fighter who disagrees:
Twenty and twenty is not good enough for a guy ranked top five. There's no way in hell anyone should think that's ok. There's been a couple of fighters out there who've been saying 'Oh, Aljamain Sterling has been whining and complaining about money on twitter' and I'm like dude, do you have any idea what whining and complaining actually is?
I'm asking for a legitimate raise with legitimate reasons for a raise, so if you consider that whining and complaining I'd hate to see the offers UFC give you, and that you instantly sign because you guys are puppets.
In December, Sterling was initally scheduled to fight in the maincard opener on the televised UFC on Fox 17, but was instead placed on the Preliminary Card of the UFC Fight Night between Rose Namajunas and Paige Van Zant, an event that attracted a crowd of 1,643 and was shown only on UFC Press Pass. Sterling identified what he believed to be the motives behind this demotion:
Only one point comes to mind: you [the UFC] are trying to bury me so nobody sees me, so then I don't have an arguing point, and if I don't have a great fight I'm backed into a corner.
Sterling is well entitled to argue his point, he was an accounting major before committing to MMA.
You can listen to the entire interview here.