Freelance: UFC Hall of Famer Gives Thoughts on Fighters Union

A lot has changed since UFC Hall of Fame member Matt Hughes last set foot in the Octagon, namely fighter pay or rather issues regarding that matter since the UFC’s record-breaking $4 billion sale around three months ago. The sale has been called by multiple outlets “the biggest transaction in sports history”–as in all of sports. Now, the laborers in leather gloves want a bigger share of the profit.

Based on research from the recently formed Professional Fighters Association (PFA) just 15 percent of the UFC’s total revenue goes to its athletes.

Hughes, now the VP of Athlete Development and Government Relations said at a Q&A session before the recent Fight Night in Hamburg, Germany, “I think unions started as a good thing back in the day, but they’ve turned into a monster.

So I just don’t see a need for it. Fighters have a choice to fight for any organization they want. They’ve got a choice of playing baseball, basketball, football, swinging a hammer, being a lawyer, doing anything they want. But they wanted to fight.”

The former Welterweight champion then offered up the cliche,”When I started out, it wasn’t for the money,” he said. “I fought to compete. So I just don’t see the need for a union.”

As a reminder, the PFA specifically targets the UFC and its roughly 600 fighters. shows that an entry-level combatant may make $6,000 per fight with. They still have to pay coaches, etc… The company still has its megastars, but even they are pursuing outside ventures such as movies.

After failing to get bonus money after defeating Valerie Letourneau in June, Joanne Calderwood wrote on Instagram,

“Gutted I didn’t get the bonus tonight but I’m not afraid to go home work and save so I can get back to@tristargym asap and hopefully be back in the octagon soon #wheretheresawilltheresaway#brokeashell #11-1.” She was later given the bonus.

Even when he submitted the “Notorious” Conor McGregor at UFC 196, Nate Diaz said,“They gave me a (expletive) load of money, and you know what I said? I said, ‘I want more of that (expletive).” “How about that, mother (expletive)? Think I’m taking some fight? (Expletive) that. Pay me. But they called me. I didn’t ask.”

A big contributor to low take-home pay solely for a fighter has been the Reebok deal. At the lowest tier of the payout system (0-5 fights under the then Zuffa, LLC banner) that includes the WEC, UFC, and Strikeforce, a fighter gets just $5,000.

PFA head Jeff Borris said that one of his first goals, once the association does become a recognized union, is to get the fighter minimum of $10k to show/ $10k to win raised.

“There’s a lot of fighters, you talk to them, they can’t afford to fight, especially if they lose. They can’t afford to pay their corner, they can’t afford to pay their training…medical insurance would probably be the next thing on the agenda…”

To represent fighters from Bellator MMA or MMA World Series of Fighting, the other two premiere leagues at the sport’s biggest level, each promotion would need a separate collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which is partly why the UFC is the main focus at this time.

Watch the full PFA press conference below.