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Lorenzo Fertitta on UFC fighter salaries: “All these keyboard warriors have no idea what they’re talking about”

By Zach Arnold | September 4, 2011

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DAVE FARRA: “Take us back to the beginning, you and Dana White. How did that relationship start?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “You know, I met Dana when we both started as 9th graders at Bishop Gorman High School here in Las Vegas, so me and Dana White go way back to the time when we were like 14, 15 years old, knew each other through high school. After high school, we kind of parted, went our own ways. I went off to college, he went off and did what he did in Boston and we hadn’t seen each other in about 6 or 7 years until we met up again at a common friend’s wedding and it was just like a nice reunion. Hey, what are you doing, where you’ve been. He informed me that he had been training some boxers and at the time I was on the Nevada State Athletic Commission, so we obviously had some common interests and he said, ‘you know, you should come train with me, I’ve been training some executives, I just don’t deal with boxers,’ and I said, you know what, that’s a good idea, I haven’t been anything since I got out of high school so it’s time to get back in shape and I met up with him at the gym and I think I’ve talked to him every day since then.”

DAVE FARRA: “You and Dana are clearly very close friends but now that you’re a decade into this business relationship, has there ever been any moments where Dana White has said something that hasn’t been politically correct that’s made you go, oh man, don’t say that?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “You know, that’s the beauty of what Dana is. He has no filter and I think that the fans really appreciate that because we live in a day and age where, you know, you talk to a commissioner of a sports league whether it be NFL or NBA or whatever and they get asked the hard questions and a lot of times you feel like you’re getting a politically correct answer. You know, Dana is all about being, saying exactly what’s on his mind, being truthful. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a fight promoter sit at the podium in the press conference after the fight and say, you know what, that fight tonight sucked, I’m sorry, you didn’t get your money’s worth, we’ll make it up to you next time? You know, if it was Don Kong or Bob Arum, they’d be feeding you something that you know just isn’t right. They’d be expounding upon the fact of what a great fight it was and this and that. Dana doesn’t do that. He calls it like it is and that’s what I think makes him so successful.”

DAVE FARRA: “Could the UFC be where it is today without Dana White?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “Certainly not with the persona that it has. Dana has become the face of the UFC. he is a great promoter. He’s obviously a great interview. I think at the end of the day, the product is the product. I mean, people like to see two guys fight using Mixed Martial Arts rules. So, do I think the sport would be here? Of course it’d be here without me, without Dana. I think the fact that we put our heads together, we put our money up to build this sport, you know, he promoted it. I think those combinations obviously accelerated the growth and here we are today.”

DAVE FARRA: “Do you agree with Dana that MMA one day will be the biggest sport in the whole world?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “I do, I really do and I know that sounds crazy, you know, people talk about how you’ll never be bigger than the NFL. I mean, I would say we’re getting… if you take the whole world and wrap that around, I’d say we’re actually getting close with our worldwide reach. We do have a special thing in that this is truly the only sport that you take to any corner of the Earth, any country, any language, you show them, you put two guys in the Octagon and let them use any martial art to compete, everybody gets it. Everybody watches it. It appeals to everybody. Whereas sports that have more structured rules, it’s hard to understand, whether it’s cricket of the NFL or baseball, it just doesn’t translate if you don’t grow up in that culture.”

DAVE FARRA: “Sports fans compare UFC athletes to NFL stars or NBA stars and a lot of keyboard warriors say that UFC fighters are just underpaid considering how much that Zuffa makes. How do you respond to those critics?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “You know, the reality is they don’t know. They don’t know what the reality is. I mean, the fact of the matter is that when we bought this company, yes, guys were getting paid very, very little. But as our company has continued to grow and revenues have grown, guys are now making a lot more money, too. I can tell you that there is a number of guys that make well into the millions every single years, there’s guys that make into the $10 million (range) every year, in that category. That doesn’t include sponsors or anything like that, so all these keyboard warriors have no idea what they’re talking about. If you take a look at our average undercard payroll relative to say a boxing PPV undercard, we’re paying out upwards of eight times more money for our undercard versus the PPV boxing undercard. So, it’s a complete misnomer and the people say, well, why don’t you guys publish what the guys make? Guys don’t want people to know what they make. Do you want everybody to know what you make? Put your salary in the paper?”

DAVE FARRA: “$19,000.”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “I mean, that’s just the reality, there’s confidentialities built into the contracts and, you know, that’s the way we run our business. Sure, are there fighters that want to get paid more? Of course, there’s always people that are unhappy, but at the end of the day if you go out there and you perform and you become a fan favorite, somebody that can drive ticket sales and PPV, you’re going to get paid.”

(Discussion about culinary union starts. We’ll clip that out for now. We covered the standard boilerplate answer on this issue from Lorenzo in this past ‘interview’ with Joe Rogan.)

DAVE FARRA: “You mentioned your love for boxing, how that is what brought you and Dana White back together after many years. Would Lorenzo Fertitta & Dana White & the Zuffa family ever consider getting into the boxing world to help fix that broken model?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “You know, I don’t think so. I mean, certainly, you never say never, but it’s not what we do. Boxing is a different animal. It’s very fragmented and I just don’t know if it can ever really be put together or ever be fixed and one of the things that is concerning to me is, for instance, I have two teenage boys and they’ve got their friends over at the house and I talk to kids and everything else. There’s a great deal of these kids that have never even seen a boxing match. They don’t even know what boxing is. You know, I took my son to give him boxing lessons, had him start boxing lessons, and it kind of hit me because he was having kind of a hard time getting the rhythm of what was going on. It hit me, he’s never watched it. So, we have a whole generation that is missing that sport, that doesn’t even understand what boxing really is. Yeah, they might see that their dad’s watching a Mayweather PPV once a year or something like that but it’s not like they’re into the sport, not like they’re into the UFC where they can sit there and rattle off, you know, 20 guys names in the UFC and they know what submission are and fighting styles and all these other things. So, I think boxing, you know, needs to do something to promote their sport to the younger base.”

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 21 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

21 Responses to “Lorenzo Fertitta on UFC fighter salaries: “All these keyboard warriors have no idea what they’re talking about””

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Lorenzo laying the smackdown….

    The top fighters don’t complain about pay…. That should tell everybody how much they get paid….

    • Jason Harris says:

      And the honest truth is, most people don’t want their salary broadcast out to the world. Imagine Rampage and Rashad both had each other’s salaries to gripe and talk shit about, nevermind how much they’d bitch if one got more than the other.

    • edub says:

      Not a surprise you are the first one to comment here.

  2. Light23 says:

    I really wish I knew precisely how much a GSP or Lesnar got paid. Every fighter really.

    But I’m nosy like that.

    If Lorenzo is telling the truth, GSP’s PPV must be at least $650k for buys up to 330,000 with $6/buy for everything over that. $1 mil fight bonus. That’d tip him over $5mil for his last fight.

    Keep in mind that Couture signed a contract in 2007 that was $322500 for buys up to 330k, with $3/buy over that. $500k fight bonus. He was ancient and coming off two losses, and later complained that he was being underpaid compared to the top guys.

    • Jason Harris says:

      In 2007 Randy Couture won then defended the UFC HW title. How is that “ancient and coming off two losses”?

      • Light23 says:

        He retired after the Liddell fight so he signed a contract on his return. I forgot the Arsdale win, but he was 1-2 in his last two, 44 years old, and had been KO’d twice.

    • edub says:

      Randy was possibly the most popular fighter in America at that point.

  3. edub says:

    I think nottheface says it best every time. It’s not Lorenzo Fertitta or anybody from Zuffa’s job to say how much anybody is worth.

    As for the way he worded people making multiple millions or $10 million per year, I will believe it when I see it. (even if it is, the percentages could still be far off)

    If you want to be recognized like every other sport in NA, act like them. Make what you pay your athletes view-able to the public. You could look up Peyton Manning, Alexander Ovechkin, Tom Brady, Chris Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Kirk Heinrich, Sidney Crosby, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, David Haye, or Wladimir Klitschko and you would see how much all of them got paid to compete. Why is it so important that the UFC keep their numbers in house?

    • EJ says:

      The question should be why is it important to know exactly what these fighter make, since it doesn’t affect us fans in the slightest.

      And using other sports releasing how much their athletes get paid as a justification is silly. All that does is bring in jealousy into the picture and have fans hate players for being overpaid. I like the fact that the UFC keeps their business in house, how much GSP gets paid is none of my business it’s his and his alone.

      • The Gaijin says:

        It allows fair and transparent negotiations for fighters when they can benchmark what other athletes of comparable talent/drawing ability/stature are making…it has very little to do with “us”. You can’t be that ignorant – why are Americans so stupid that they just buy every line fed to them by their plutocratic masters?

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Management talks to each other.

          As long as those in the industry know how much money is out there and what fighters worth is, that’s all that matters.

          Fans knowing this information is useless.

        • edub says:

          They want to be told what the real information is, and not have the feeling that they are being lied too. That’s why so many people are taking a statement made Fertitta as an absolute.

        • EJ says:

          You’re cleary the ignorant one if you think that UFC fighters know how much other guys are making. Fighters and more so their agents know exactly what other top guys are making. That might be a secret to us but not for them and that’s the way that it should be since it’s none of our concern.

        • edub says:

          It’s none of our concern who our money goes to when we spend $55 on events to see certain fighters compete?

          No. It is very much our concern.

          “Fighters and more so their agents know exactly what other top guys are making.”

          Anyways, no. The fighters, and agents do not know exactly what other guys are making. They have an idea of the ballpark of what certain athletes bring in, but they do not have exact numbers of what similar guys in their divisions and level of drawing power are making (because the contracts are kept secret, and reported earnings aren’t close to what some people are making).

        • 45 Huddle says:


          You are sounding like an entitled fan….

          The top guys don’t really complain about money anymore. Even Tito Ortiz has said that his last contract basically meant you will never hear another complaint from him again on the money topic.

          When you pay for a car insurance policy, do you demand to know how much their employees are making? Or when you shop at Target, do you demand to know how much money is going to the Chinese Employees making the product?

          Come on….

        • edub says:

          Dude you are delusional if you just wrote this paragraph, “When you pay for a car insurance policy, do you demand to know how much their employees are making? Or when you shop at Target, do you demand to know how much money is going to the Chinese Employees making the product?”, then have the audacity to say “come on”.

          I don’t even know if I should break this down like you’re a 5 year old, but here goes:

          When you pay for a car insurance policy, you are paying for insurance. When you are paying for a UFC show, you are paying to see the fighters compete. When you shop at Target, you are paying for a product that you are going to use in some way. When you are paying for a UFC show, you are paying to see the fighters compete.

          They are nothing like one another.

          That argument just made me a little dumber for reading it.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          You are paying for a product in all 3 examples. The difference is that one of them you can see the human product up front. The other 2 the human product is behind the scenes. It’s still there.

    • Phil says:

      Most of the information that comes out in the other sports comes from agents and/or the players who are trying to have a dick measuring contest. if the players or the agents want to talk, they can do it. It’s not a one way issue. There are 3 people that know how much a fighter really makes, it only takes one of them to spill the beans.

  4. david m says:

    The UFC is smart not to want these numbers to leak out; if they did, and were in the public domain, then fighters would hold out–as they should. Fans who don’t want fighters to be able to have enough information to get their worth are idiots.


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