By Raphael Garcia
The UFC is the biggest stage in the sport of mixed martial arts. Whether fans, fighters, or media members truly agree with some of the organization’s practices, that fact will not change any time soon. That is why Donald Cerrone’s comments during the UFC Fight Night 89 post-fight press conference, while interesting to hear, will eventually fall into the void of fighter complaints until greater, collective action is taken.
On Saturday night, Cerrone became the first man to ever stop Patrick Cote via strikes, earning his second win as a UFC welterweight. But instead of focusing on his performance, he used his time behind the microphone to express his concerns with his pay.
“That all sounds nice, but according to my pay, I don’t mean [expletive] to the UFC,” Cerrone said to reporters. “But we’ll see. We’ll have to talk to [UFC President Dana White] after this to see if we can figure that out.”
As fighter pay continues to be a well-watched story, “Cowboy” has consistently been one of the loudest voices for higher payouts. Since UFC Fight Night 89 occurred on foreign soil in Ottawa, Ontario, fighter pay does not have to be disclosed like it does when fighters compete in the United States, but at UFC on Fox 17, he earned $79,000 in defeat to lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. Cerrone has made it known in the past just how much he dislikes the UFC-Reebok deal, which cut into his potential earnings from sponsorships.
“Comfortably, I’m saying that I’m going to be losing $60,000 a fight probably,” Cerrone said back in 2015. Although Cerrone is at the maximum level of earners with the Reebok deal, champions and challengers excluded, and earns $20,000 per fight, that hasn’t stopped him from voicing complaints about his current pay.
Cerrone is the right type of fighter to continue to shine light on this problem. He’s a fan favorite that remains a highly-ranked lightweight and can move up to the welterweight division -- a very similar position as former opponent Nate Diaz, another fighter who has consistently spoken out about fighter pay, even after earning the biggest payout of his career in defeating Conor McGregor at UFC 196. It will be interesting to see how Cerrone is treated by the leadership within UFC if he keeps speaking about this topic in such a negative way.
However, this is a situation that will not change until fighters find a way to take action. Seeking better deals through free agency has worked out for some, like Benson Henderson, Aljamain Sterling, and others. But there’s always the risk in testing the market and fighting out a contract, as Rory MacDonald may find out after his loss to Stephen Thompson. The idea of a fighter’s association or union continues to get thrown around, but is a massive undertaking with a number of hurdles that would prevent it or make it difficult to achieve.
Furthermore, stories of the UFC’s impending sale continue to build, and that angle also has an impact on fighter pay. Some have questioned whether the sale from Zuffa to another organization will result in the revealing of the amount of money that is used to pay fighters, and the other expenses that are accrued by the UFC. If that information comes to light, there’s potential for the disparity between revenue and fighter pay to become even more apparent.
Until that time, however, fighters such as Donald Cerrone must continue to speak out about fighters’ pay every moment that they can. At the same time, these athletes have to continue competing at the highest level possible in order to keep earning time in front of the microphone. Cerrone is an example of a fighter that is trying to use his voice in a way that will benefit the ones who don’t have the same opportunity. Only time will tell, however, whether his short time on the stage at the UFC Fight Night 89 post-fight press conference will ultimately have a long-term impact.
UFC Fight Night 89
• Donald Cerrone vs. Patrick Cote: Donald Cerrone def. Patrick Cote via TKO (punches) at 2:35 of Round 3.
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UFC Fight Night 89: MacDonald vs. Thompson took place on June 18, 2016 at The Arena at TD Place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.