Midnight Mania! Why is Dana White so against giving McGregor UFC equity?

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Conor McGregor REALLY wants a share in the UFC. The thing is, it wouldn’t be difficult at all to give it to him. WME-IMG are already paying him more than any UFC fighter in history. Celebrities, including Mark Wahlberg, already own shares in the company. McGregor is as much a celebrity as he is a fighter. Why, then, is Dana White so against the idea?

The word ‘idea’ is key. Inherent in the relationship between the UFC and it’s fighters is the underlying, implicit understanding of the way capitalism works. Fighters do the fighting, UFC owners do the profiting. Workers work, owners of capital profit because they own the capital. If you own the thing, you can do what you want with the thing. Never mind that the UFC paid it’s fighters roughly 17 percent of revenue before the ESPN deal (certainly even less now). They own the show. Everyone else is an employee (except not quite, they don’t get a 401K, or the right to collectively bargain via a union). In this sense, the UFC is exactly like the rest of America. This is more and more how the world works: huge monopolistic corporations own the planet, the rest of us just live on it. The era of workers organizing to limit the power of capital ended 40 years ago. If the UFC wants to unilaterally trade away the fighters’ right to wear any sponsor they want in favor of one sponsor that pays a fraction of the amount individual fighters could get, all the fighters sign that contract amendment. That’s how Justin Gaethje made just $4,000 in ‘promotional guidelines compliance pay’ for wearing Reebok gear.

Every single fighter in the company is underpaid relative to the value of the ‘product’, the violence they create in the Octagon. This is especially true in the ESPN era, where the value of the fights they put on is paid for by the hardcore audience that bought an ESPN+ subscription, and the revenue comes mostly from a stable TV deal, and less from individual stars on Pay-Per-View (PPV). The UFC needs the likes of Donald Cerrone, Michelle Waterson, Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, Josh Emmett, and Aljamain Sterling, to fill their TV and streaming slots.

Even the top stars are underpaid, though; perhaps especially the top stars. Floyd Mayweather made a minimum purse of 32 million dollars fighting Andre Berto, a fight that sold between 400,000 and 550,000 PPV buys. By comparison, Conor McGregor made 3 million guaranteed minimum fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov, a fight that sold 2.4 million PPV buys. Sure, McGregor no doubt made a lot more than that with what the UFC considers a generous cut of the PPV sales, but before the fight he estimated that he would make 50 million if the fight sold 3 to 3.5 million buys. It’s safe to estimate he made much less than that with the actual buyrate. For a fight that quintupled the buyrate of Mayweather-Berto, McGregor likely made a comparable amount of money. The reason for the difference? Mayweather owns his own promotion. Without getting into the legal differences between boxing and MMA created by boxing’s Ali Act, that’s the reason Mayweather gets much bigger paychecks.

In short, Dana White realizes that giving any fighters equity in the company threatens to blur this clear line between labor and capital that allows the UFC’s owners to get away with capturing ~85% of the revenue unquestioned. This is just how the world works, naturally, like the divine right of kings. Giving a fighter ownership would threaten to shatter the illusion that anything else is impossible.


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Sleep well, Maniacs! A better tomorrow is always possible. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook @Vorpality

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