This past week, the UFC revealed just how much of the money from its Reebok will be distributed to the fighters. Once the news broke, it set off an unprecedented chain of events unlike any the Zuffa-owned company has ever experienced before. The overall consensus on the numbers released by the UFC were not good, to say the least. From fans to fighters to media, the whole MMA world was buzzing about how lackluster the pay scales were going to be.
The UFC is no stranger to circumstances like this one. Over the years, the company has been often criticized for making decisions that will grow its bottom dollar while not exactly raising the pay scale of its independent contractors, the fighters. What makes this particular situation different is the outcry from the fighters themselves in social media and interviews. Never before have the fighters been this outspoken about an issue concerning the UFC and the promotion’s decisions.
Now the question becomes: what does the UFC do from here?
Even though fighters like Tim Kennedy and Brendan Schaub, among others, have been very vocal about the Reebok deal and how much money it is taking out of their pockets, can we expect change? The answer to that question is yes. We can expect some changes, because the UFC has already changed its mind once before on how this new sponsorship system will work. So, what would stop the company from changing course again?
Granted, this is like comparing apple and oranges. The two issues — determining the pay tiers vs. boosting the pay at all levels — are completely separate, but at least we know the UFC hasn’t planted a flag and taken a stand. The UFC is going toward this with a relatively open mind and, judging from the change of a rank-based system to this new tendered system, are more than willing to make necessary changes. The key word there, however, is “necessary.” How will the UFC determine if a change is necessary?
Well, there is one way that has proven to make a difference: when the fighters keep reminding the boys over at the Zuffa headquarters in Las Vegas that the current format is not acceptable.
As long as the criticism stays constant and the fighters keep harping on the topic, the UFC will have no choice but to revamp the pay scale. If the backlash slows down just for a minute or two, the UFC will not feel compelled to change a thing, and all the noise that has been made over the past week or so will have gone on deaf ears as the entire pay scale and uniform system will become the norm.
The message here is simple. The fighters must keep beating the drum and show the UFC that this sponsorship thing needs to change. Not only must they do this in social media, but also through other means of communication, including interviews, message board posts and fan Q&A sessions.
The UFC has shown the ability to adapt and change when faced with circumstances like these, and that is why the issue needs to stay at the forefront of the news and talking points. If it doesn’t, the battle will be lost forever.