Dana White is amid a battle with two of the UFC's big-name fighters, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and welterweight Jorge Masvidal. That battle is regarding how much they are paid.
On ESPN's First Take on Tuesday, the UFC president faced questions regarding fighter remuneration from Domonique Foxworth, an ex-NFL player and former president of the NFL Players Association.
This is how what was a heated discussion between White and Foxworth played out.
DW: Jon Jones just signed a new deal less than a year ago. He’s got eight fights left on his deal What do you want me to tell you? The guy’s got a deal.
Same thing with Masvidal. [He] just signed a new deal seven months ago. These guys both have brand new deals that they were more than happy to sign less than a year ago.
DF: I think that Masvidal and Jones are interesting cases that I think you’ll probably explain away. My history in labour unions in sports in particular makes me a little biased on this particular side. If it were just those two guys, then I feel I can get on board and understand your explanation.
Obviously I understand how businesses works, but there’s a long history of issues with the labour in UFC not feeling that they’re getting just payment or the treatment that they deserve. Can you speak to the long history rather than specific individuals?
DW: Does anybody feel like they make too much money? Nobody does. Listen, if we were talking about a thing where these guys had old contracts from three years ago and it’s like 'Come on, that was three years ago that I did this deal' they signed these less than a year ago. This was months ago.
By the way I don’t know if you’ve know this but we’re in a pandemic right now and no other sports are going. Oh, by the way, every other sport is arguing over money right now. I haven’t laid off one employee, I haven’t asked any of my fighters to take less money. You don’t hear me out here crying about ‘I don’t get any gates, I don’t have this, I don’t have [that]' you don’t hear me crying about anything.
I’m running my business, I’m paying everybody. Right now, if you think it’s easy to be a business owner right now here and today, you are right out of your mind. There’s never been a harder time to do business than right now. Guess what? I’m pulling it off.
DF: You can’t say you’re not crying anymore, you just said it’s the hardest time for business owners. I do think that it’s important to understand...
DW: Is that me crying? That’s not me crying. I was just explaining to you!
DF: The point I’m making is that the leverage is different. Saying that they just signed contracts doesn’t speak to the leverage that they have in negotiations. Just because they signed contracts doesn’t necessarily mean that the contracts are fair.
I’m not informed enough to know whether the contracts are fair or not, but I understand that when there’s a track record of a number of athletes over a period of time having an issue with someone or a company, then that seems like a group that needs unionisation in order to have the leverage to get the things that they want.
DW: Welcome to the fight business my friend. Right now we’re in a pandemic and all this stuff is going on. We just signed a contract eight months ago. You see me saying 'Oh, no, no this is going on and that’s going on, I have to pay you less money?' No. I’m paying them exactly the same amount of money no matter what’s going on. In the history of this company, I’ve never asked a fighter to go backwards ever.
DF: You could argue that that suggests that maybe they weren’t making enough if their pay is not an issue.
I’m not saying that you’re having trouble, that we should applaud you. We should certainly applaud you for keeping your business running and not letting any people down. I certainly wasn’t looking to fight you like Dan Le Batard, I’m not looking to fight you at all. I’m just bringing up the idea that there’s another perspective that makes perfect sense to me.
Given my background, I understand how difficult it is to run a business right now, so we applaud you for all that, we applaud you for not taking their money down but just because you’re not doing anything bad, doesn’t mean that the situation is fair for them.
And again, I’m not trying to be confrontational because I don’t know the ins and outs of this business, but I do know the ins and outs of sports labour and I know that when you have a bunch of angry, upset athletes there’s normally a reason why they should be angry and upset, so I was just speaking to that.
DW: Again, I have 630 fighters under contract and we’re talking about two.
DW: Right now.