Conor McGregor has leapt to the defense of the UFC and Dana White in lambasting former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson following his tirade directed at the president of the Las Vegas promotion for fighters being “underpaid”.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday to promote his upcoming fight against Michael Chandler at UFC 274, his first fight since last May, Ferguson went ham at a reporter, who jokingly brought up Ferguson’s crack at Chandler, where he said his opponent has “Dana White privilege” after securing a title fight in his second appearance in the octagon last year after leaving rival MMA promotion Bellator.
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“I don’t think it’s very funny,” Ferguson said.
“Everybody is looking at it. They’re smiling and laughing, but nobody is saying s–t. I’m the kid that’s up here with Dana Brown privilege, I guess, or whatever you want to call it.
“I don’t think it’s very funny anymore. I don’t think you guys should think that’s very funny. I’m taking this weekend very f—ing seriously. I’ll kick this Dana White boy’s ass.”
Ferguson also said fighters in the company are treated “like s—t” while taking aim at White, saying he acts “like a f—ing drug dealer”.
“I think we’re underpaid, personally, to be real.… I asked Dana to box. He said, ‘F–k no.’ I’m like, ‘Why? I want to go play baseball. I want to go do other pro sports.
“I’m an athlete. I grew up playing different sports at a high level. … I want to go do all these couple things but then I have this guy right here acting like a f—ng drug dealer telling me I can ‘t go and do this s–t. I want to go make more money for my family.”
White was quoted earlier in the week saying that boxers are “overpaid”, pointing to the UFC’s sustainability and growth as the chief reason for not breaking the back on fighters salaries.
He was asked about the company’s revenue split with the fighters, which sees athletes take 20 per cent to the UFC’s 80 percent, amid a stalemate with heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who is tipped to fight Tyson Fury in a crossover bout once his contract expires at the end of the year.
White said the top performers at the company have the opportunity to make more by sharing in the pay-per-view riches, saying “you kill what you eat”. It didn’t take long for the promotion’s biggest name to chirp up in defense of White in the aftermath of Ferguson’s 25 minute press conference spray.
McGregor, who hasn’t fought since breaking his leg in a loss to Dustin Poirer at UFC 264 last July, is the poster boy of the company’s financial model, often boasting about his PPV numbers on social media while posting documents that show the obscene amounts of money he’s made from various UFC bouts.
“Tony Ferguson, who changes representation around four times a year, is saying it’s someone else fault he is in the position he is in,” McGregor posted to Twitter.
“How many bridges do you burn before you look yourself in the mirror and say ‘maybe it’s me that’s the issue’. God bless you play, I’ll say a prayer.”
At various points during his career, McGregor has directed venom at White and the UFC, yet the Irishman has the company to thank for providing him with a platform to become a two-weight champion and arguably the biggest star in sports during his peak.
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However, McGregor’s net worth of around $280 million (AUD) can be strongly attributed to his crossover boxing fight with Floyd Mayweather in 2017.
The bout sold 4.3 million PPV buys and pulled $77 million at the gate, with total revenue totaling $772 million.
According to Forbes, McGregor’s cut was just short of $120 million with $30 million up front, while Mayweather’s slice was worth $386 million (AUD) with $140 million guaranteed before the fight.
Since his boxing debut, McGregor exercised more leverage over the UFC to get a percentage of the PPV sales for his fights. But only a select few are rolling in it.
While both McGregor and White count their hundreds of millions, the tiered system sees UFC fighters down the food chain reportedly earn between $14,000 and $42,000, for each fight while the higher earners take home between $700,000 and $4.2 million per fight.
White is reportedly a nine per cent owner of the UFC, which has seen growth since the company was sold for $5.6 billion (AUD) to talent agency WME-IMG in 2016. Some reports claim he sold one per cent in the deal.
At the time it was the most expensive transaction for an organization in sports history. It’s now said to be worth an estimated $12-14 billion.
Original owners of the UFC, Zuffa, led by brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, purchased the failing fight promotion for just $2.8 million in 2001.
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