UFC bossman Dana White on Tuesday night took aim at boxing promoter Bob Arum, and touched on what the duties of a fight promoter are, while taking potshots at the 88 year old deal-maker.
Arum has been in the space since before White, age 51, was born, so it was strange to hear the combustible mixed martial arts helmsman refer to Arum as a “little bitch.”
The topic was replay, and White said, when queried by reporters after his ‘Contender Series’ show, “I didn’t see how that whole thing (the delay of the decision following the premature end to the Joshua Franco-Andrew Moloney rematch) played out, I heard Bob Arum effing little bitch crying crying about it. Eff him, had to throw that in there, I effing hate that guy.”
A reporter knew he had White in a mode, so he fed him more raw meat. Did White hear that Arum spoke on the subject of Terence Crawford, and told a reporter that he’s lost money on Crawfords’ last three fights.
“He’s got to promote like [Teofimo] Lopez does. He’s got to promote like Shakur [Stevenson] does. Like [Floyd] Mayweather did. Like [Manny] Pacquiao did. If he doesn’t, then who the fuck needs him? He may be the greatest fighter in the world, but, hey, I ain’t going bankrupt promoting him,” Arum on Nov. 15 told Lance Pugmire of The Athletic . “The question is, ‘Do we want to keep him?’ I could build a house in Beverly Hills on the money I’ve lost on him in the last three fights, a beautiful home. Nobody questions Crawford’s innate, tremendous ability. By beating a naturally bigger guy [in Kell Brook], decisively, that’s a big statement that’s he’s making. The question is, ‘Does he pay the bills?’ Look, you can have the greatest opera singer in the world. If the fans don’t support it, you’re out of business.”
Arum was giving a deep dive look into fight game economics, and admitted that he’d lost money on some fights. (And, by the way, he was doing this after his Top Rank received on Sept. 7 a blistering letter from an attorney hired by Terence Crawford, who contended that Top Rank hadn’t to that point done right in securing a mega-bout for Crawford. Whose fault that is can be debated, but any debate has to be mitigated at least a sliver by the fact that Crawford has made between $3.5-$4 million for fighting Egis Kavaliauskas and Kell Brook.)
Now, we don’t have the balance sheets in front of us. We don’t get to see those, not from Arum, not from Al Haymon, not from Dana White. But Arum’s point touched on something that White, quite honestly, doesn’t get accused of…paying TOO MUCH to his talent.
Indeed, every day, one can find plenty of chatter, often from the fighters themselves, making it public that they think White is greedy, and that the trickle down economics in the UFC make it really hard to earn a middle class living in that organization.
Students of economics and vocational shifts know that some of the factors in their complaints are in line with larger trends, with how companies prefer to use talent that is freelance, or hire them on a gig by gig basis, because they don’t have to pay them benefits, like health insurance, which costs a not pretty penny.
So, what about that “Beverly Hills” reference?
“Can you imagine if I said that,” White answered. “Are you effin’ kiddin me, you guys would murder me if I said that. I’d never hear the end of that. That’s what you do, that’s not his effin’ problem, that’s your problem. His problem isn’t to figure out how you make money. You effing signed a deal with this kid. Your job is to promote him. Your job is, you made a deal…All these kids that I sign, and if you look right now, at all the kids that we’ve signed, and the people that we have on the roster, our roster is very inflated right now. We have a very, very big roster, the biggest roster that we’ve ever had in the history of the company. I have to pay all these kids,” White said, which may imply, to those unaware, that UFC fighters have guaranteed contracts, and get moolah on a weekly or monthly basis, rather than just when they fight.
They do not, for the record.
It’s the same in boxing, you eat what you kill, you get paid when you fight. (Which is why, in general, I’m more than happy for fighters to be paid very handsomely for plying their most dangerous trade, though I will tell you straight up that I think ‘income inequality’ within combat sports, with the lion’s share going to the tip top needle movers, is not a recipe for the health of the roster of fighters as a whole, same as in the ‘regular’ workplace, because it means the vast majority of ‘have nots’ battle for crumbs. That spurs massive anxiety as people live paycheck to paycheck, with most not enjoying a savings nest egg to fall back on.)
“How I pay (fighters) is not their effin’ problem,” White continued. No, no media member present piped up and said, “No, HOW MUCH you pay them is more often their problem, is that more correct to say?’
“It’s my effin’ problem. Imagine me sayin, ‘I gotta pay Conor McGregor effin’ this much money, I coulda built a house in Beverly Hills,” White said, in a smiley rant. “Shut the eff up you effin’ scumbag, pay your effin’ fighter what you owe him, that’s your job. Bob Arum is a piece of effin’ shit.”
Few points on Whites’ points…
How he pays them IS ‘their problem’ when he’s negotiating. Jorge Masvidal took aim at White for how he negotiates. Daniel Cormier did too, relating how he was treated by White when he came over from Strikeforce. Jon Jones made it clear, publicly, what he thinks of the White way in distributing pay.
Nate Diaz has gone back and forth a bunch of times with White over monetary issues. In 2014, Diaz said White and UFC were far from generous when it comes to paying the people who take the risk, the fighters.
“Nate Diaz has what it takes to be champion or he doesn’t, but I’ll tell you, there’s only one way to find out,” White had said. “He has to come back and fight. He thinks he loses to two of the best guys in the world and deserves more money? In what fucking planet does that make sense?”
White is of course canny like that. He full well knows that if you are a “name,” and attract eyeballs who pay to watch your fights, whether you win or lose doesn’t matter as much. But that’s not what he put out to media when Nate spoke up on his poor paydays.
It was White, not Arum, who had athletes losing their shit over that UFC deal which took away the fighters’ right to make their own endorsement deals, and forced them to wear Reebok gear into the cage. Yep, money got taken out of pockets, as Brendan Schaub pointed out, publicly.
White used to explain that the sport was still being built, that was one reason why purses weren’t higher. He didn’t use that explanation anymore, thankfully, when UFC the company got sold for $4 billion in 2016.
Repeating, White is savvy. But there’s is no shortage of MMAers who look at what Arum is paying Terence Crawford, $3.5 million guaranteed, to fight people he was handily favored to beat, and wish they worked for the ‘piece of effin’ shit.’
Nope, not saying Arum it all right all the time. Sometimes his being candid ruffles feathers real hard. White is a feather ruffler, too. But White has also been there in doing some moves which go a long way in keeping his fighters’ pay scale from exploding, and plenty of people who’ve worked for him think that some of those plays meet the definition of a ‘piece of shit’ move. Some UFC plays have had the ability to affect negatively the possibility of athletes gaining leverage, by introducing the prospect of signing with another organization that can rival UFC for capital strength and brand prominence.
In the fall of 2019, it came out that UFC paid PRIDE CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara $10 million to sign a 7-year non-compete contract. Does White want to dig deeper into that sort of move, or just keep it at that certain level, on the Trump plane, with crude insults as he did Tuesday?
We could continue with the dissection, like by pointing out that Crawford didn’t say Arum hasn’t paid what he owes. Crawford’s beef is not getting marquee bouts, and Dana won’t get into bragging about how he doesn’t so much get accused of that… because his league has cornered the market on the top level talent.
But instead, let’s give the last words to Arum. He turns 89 Dec. 8, and while I don’t agree at all with all his moves–like when he told me he’d vote for Trump over Bernie Sanders if the Dems put forth Bernie to face off with Trump Nov. 3–I do think he deserves credit for longevity, and respect from the likes of White, the blustery blow-hard who, I don’t know, maybe was in a bad mood his boy took the L on Nov. 3.
“Dana White can talk,” Bob Arum said to NY Fights, when asked about Dana’s rude rant on Tuesday. “Why doesn’t he tell his fighters how much UFC takes in and how little his fighters get? Why doesn’t the Ali Act apply to the UFC fighters like it does in boxing to protect the boxers?”
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