MMA enjoying its success
By Kevin Iole, Yahoo Sports
May 25, 2007
The UFC has had fighters on the cover of Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine in the last two weeks. Its ticket sales generally dwarf those of boxing matches and its television ratings attract the young male demographic that boxing lost long ago.
UFC president Dana White has long been critical of the way boxing runs itself and blames promoters such as Bob Arum, Don King and Oscar De La Hoya for the sport's problems.
Arum and his stepson, Top Rank president Todd duBoef, however, fired back at White in the start of what could become a full-blown feud.
White said Arum and King, both members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, were "sucking the life out of the sport and not putting anything back in."
"He promoted that show completely the wrong way, because he worried about the money as opposed to trying to secure the future," White said. "He should have stacked that card. He should have had Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins and (Marco Antonio) Barrera and Winky Wright on there and used it to show that boxing is back.
"But he didn't do that. He went for the money. That's the difference between us and these boxing promoters. We care about the sport and the sport's future and they care about making as much money as they can."
Arum suggested MMA fighters take a close look at the revenues being generated and ask why the UFC isn't cutting them in on more.
The UFC has been criticized for how much it pays its fighters, but White keeps salary information as private as he can. Though the contracts submitted to the state athletic commission for top fighters like light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell may show a base pay of $250,000, plus a similar bonus for winning, White said his stars are paid significantly more than that.
To date, few UFC fighters have complained publicly about their pay.
But Arum said it's because they aren't aware of what they're making relative to what Zuffa, the company that owns the UFC, makes.
"They should ask what percentage of revenue from each event he pays them," Arum said. "If you look at the amount and percentage King and I pay, it doesn't compare. His guys get $250,000, if they're lucky. All told, they may get 10, 15 percent of the revenues generated, while boxers get 80.
"When you're talking net revenue, boxers get as much as 92 percent. If I'm promoting a big show and I keep my talent to 92 percent of my net, I'm doing well."
Richard Schaefer, the CEO of De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, agreed with Arum. He said if a boxing promoter only paid the fighters on a card 10 percent of the revenue, it would be front-page news around the world.
He said it is only a matter of time before the athletes in the UFC begin to question their pay.
"What they're paying these athletes is a disgrace," Schaefer said. "The public is coming to see the athletes and they're what make the UFC what it is. It's the athletes, not Dana White. "It's only a matter of time before the athletes figure out that they're being ripped off and demand they be paid more than 10 percent."
DuBoef said White should be appreciative that Arum and King paved the way for him to do fights on pay-per-view.
"I'm going to call Dana, because I need to educate him," duBoef said. "His comments are incredibly na 39;ve, very na 39;ve. He doesn't understand the boxing business and he doesn't understand our business model works better than his business model.
"His is the WWE scenario and ours isn't and he shows his naiveté when he continues to make comments like that."
Light heavyweight Keith Jardine entered that fray, though at a considerably lower level, when he suggested the reason why MMA is surpassing boxing is because mixed martial artists don't fight cautiously, as many boxers do.
"You can't worry about getting knocked out," Jardine said. "And that's why people like MMA and why it's growing past boxing. We don't fight not to lose. We fight to win. I don't worry about taking that shot on the chin or on the back of the head. I go to win, regardless."
Jardine and Rashad Evans are best friends, share a coach and train together. Because of that, they said they'll never fight, even though a bout between them would be one of the most anticipated the UFC could make.
White believes he can convince them otherwise.
"Why wouldn't you fight each other?" White said. "It's a great fight and it could make the winner."
Jardine fights Houston Alexander on Saturday in UFC 71 at the MGM Grand Garden, while the unbeaten Evans gets his highest-profile match to date when he takes on ex-champion Tito Ortiz on July 7 in Sacramento, Calif.
Jardine and Evans train together in Albuquerque, N.M., with coach Greg Jackson. Jardine said their friendship means too much to him for him to ever consider a bout with his buddy.
"We're so close, we're best friends and we hang out all the time," Jardine said. "It's no fake thing. We help each other's game out. He's helped me get so much better and I've helped him improve. It's never going to happen. We're really good friends and really tight. It's a special situation."
Jackson said he doesn't want any of the fighters who train in his gym to fight each other. He doesn't have the ability to stop such bouts, but said it could impact their training if they have to worry about fighting a teammate.
Jackson said the strength of his gym is that the fighters who work there give so much of themselves to help their teammates.
"It's their careers and if they want to do it, they can, but I'm 100 percent against it," Jackson said. "At our dojo, we don't have to worry about fighting the guy next to you and that allows you to give secrets and share freely of yourself to that person.
"If they thought there was a chance they'd have to fight each other, there would be a different vibe and it's not what I would want."
HE'S A FIGHTER
Don't expect middleweight Chris Leben to look for a new job if he loses to Kalib Starnes on Saturday. Leben said he'd consider leaving the UFC if that's what it took for him to continue fighting, but said he has no plans to actually work for a living.
"I'm a fighter and I'll always be a fighter," Leben said. "Let's face it, I'm not going to be a lawyer."
RUA TO UFC
White said he's signed top light heavyweight contender Maurcio "Shogun" Rua, who had been competing in Pride, to a UFC contract.
Rua, who will likely be the top contender for the winner of Saturday's title fight between Chuck Liddell and Quinton Jackson, will probably debut for the UFC at UFC 72 next month in Belfast, Northern Ireland, though White emphasized he has made no decision.
Updated on Friday, May 25, 2007 8:17 pm, EDT