It's known as the 4 Letter Network or the "World Wide Leader in Sports" and is the most watched cable channel across the United States. ESPN comes forward with coverage of every kind of sport (besides hockey and MMA) and has conquered the cable empire for many years. But with the UFC, it seems sour grapes have conquered this latest feud between both companies.
The back story if you aren’t familiar with what is going on is that ESPN and “Outside the Lines” did a story on pay salaries for UFC fighters. Even though real numbers can’t be revealed due to the UFC being a private company some fighters are supposedly earning as low as 6,000 dollars per fight. Now that doesn’t include any bonuses or sponsorships fees that the fighters gain.
If you want to watch the entire segment or read the entire article you can go here.
Now I had a few problems with this report and why I don’t think ESPN is using this information as just as a story but more as a payback for not signing with them for broadcast rights.
Even though he is a Hall of Famer in the UFC, he has had his problems with the UFC since he was released back in 2006. With his persona of always being “hot under the collar” and not taking crap from anybody he had his fair share of arguments and still dislikes Dana White till this day. Shamrock was asked to come on the segment to talk about the salaries of fighters and how the UFC is becoming a monopoly.
The problem is that Shamrock fought back in 2006, earlier where the revenue wasn’t coming as frequently as it is now and the sport wasn’t as big as it was today. Interviewing a guy that you know has a grudge against the company is fitting perfectly into ESPN’s hands. They are hearing what they want from Shamrock and that is negative comments towards the UFC, even though there are personal issues involved.
An ESPN MMA reporter who has been covering MMA for 11 years according to his Twitter bio and also has had his fair share of disagreements with Dana White.
When The Ultimate Fighter 4 was being shown on TV Gross spoiled the finalists before the episode was aired. This infuriated Dana White as the show was taped 6 months before it is shown on television and didn't want anything revealed about who was fighting. Recently, Gross called out Dana White and said that he planned the entire UFC 137 card change with George St-Pierre and Nick Diaz.
Gross has had his credentials pulled over the problems he and the President of the UFC have had which has further brought negative comments from Gross towards White.
Now during the interview Gross explained that UFC does a lot for their “family” of fighters which is very true. But the negative comments toward the company are more personally fueled than just reporting the facts and what he has found out from talking with people inside the company.
Also mentioned in the story, that 30 fighters were asked about this issue but none of them agreed to come on camera. Now why is that? Gerald Harris who fights for the Dream organization would have been an excellent person to interview but the only fighters they could find were former employees who had personal problems with the owners or employees. It makes the report a little less truthful when people are asked to interview and you know the problems that they have had.
I think this all refers back to the FOX deal UFC signed for 7 years and denying any other network to pick up the coverage of the biggest company in the world for Mixed Martial Arts. Like I said in a previous blog, ESPN used to send studio sets to events and help the sport gain exposure. But this was all while the negotiations were going on behind the scenes and when ESPN didn’t come away with the rights to air the UFC, things went south fast.
Dana White tweeted out a YouTube video of Lorenzo Fertitta today as the UFC had their own cameras rolling while ESPN was on location for the interview.
Interesting points from Fertitta and Dana White has said as soon as gets back from Brazil he will tweet out the rest of the material that was cut out of the ESPN report. With the whole salary issue being the focal point one fighter said this to ESPN regarding his wages:
"The top 5 percent [of fighters] are definitely making good money, but you've got to look at the guys at the bottom of the card," the fighter said. "They can't fight anywhere else. If they make $10,000 a fight and fight every six months, they can't make ends meet."
Now this quote may be true but many fighters have counteracted this by having a secondary job, such as teaching MMA or doing other things to help support their family or themselves while they aren’t fighting. Many fighters have looked at the situation they were dealt and figured out what else can be done until they can support themselves on just fighting alone.
Now ESPN has some great reporters that cover the sport and shouldn’t be discredited because of a few ignorant and personal issues with the UFC. There are a lot of hard workers who care about the sport and want to report the positive and negative about what is going across the board in MMA. With this report of salaries and the UFC supposedly low-balling their fighters with amount they pay is more of a grudge from ESPN than reporting something that every big business follows.
If you work hard and show results, you will work your way up the ladder along with increased pay rate and other amenities.
But falter and what choice does the UFC have? Many forget that major sports are a business and ESPN is singling the UFC out for something that any other company has to deal with their employees.
The grapes are still being chewed by many at ESPN and they are making themselves look worse and worse after each one is swallowed.