LAS VEGAS – There were sessions on concussions, steroids, taxes, gambling, merchandising and rules, but the main point that UFC president Dana White wanted to stress to fighters at the third annual UFC Fighter Summit is that they must be aware of what is happening to their money.
There are many well-known examples of boxers who made millions of dollars, and, in some cases, hundreds of millions, who blew it all and wound up broke.
And while the two-day meeting arranged by Zuffa, the company that owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Strikeforce, was designed to cover a wide variety of issues facing fighters, White said nothing should be more important to them than being intimately aware of their finances.
"Not everybody is going to make millions and millions of dollars," White said Tuesday during his welcoming remarks to the athletes in the first session at the Red Rock Casino Resort in Las Vegas. "Some guys do. Some guys will. Some guys make hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some guys make just enough money to buy a nice house, pay it off, and maybe buy a car and stash some money away. When you move on to that next chapter in your life, you have some pretty cool stuff. You don't want to [mess] that up. You don't want to blow that.
"You don't want someone else running your business. You are your business. You should know everything about it, no matter how much you trust whoever is handling your [money]. You should know 100 percent what is going on with your life and with your business."
The summit included Strikeforce fighters for the first time since the UFC bought the world's second-largest mixed martial arts promotion in March. The Strikeforce fighters attended sessions on Monday and Tuesday. UFC fighters were broken into two groups. The first group showed up Tuesday for an all-day session and finished with a half day Wednesday. The second group will have its all-day session Wednesday and finish Thursday.
Dr. Jeff Davidson spent 45 minutes talking about concussions and pointed out that more than 90 percent of concussions occur in practice. He gave fighters signs to look for to recognize a concussion and tips on treatment.
Davidson also advised fighters on the best way to cut weight, urging a gradual weight cut instead of dropping nearly all of it in the hours before a weigh-in. He noted serious health risks came with losing the weight too quickly.
Two agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration spoke about the dangers and risks of steroids. They showed photos of a steroids bust that occurred in North Las Vegas, Nev., in which a man was making steroids in a room filled with cat feces.
"There was cat [excrement] all over the place where this guy was mixing the chemicals," agent Chris Cadogan said. "People tend to think it's made in a sterile environment, but would you want to eat something cooked on that oven?"
White said the UFC spent $975,000 to put on this year's summit, a worthy investment in the fighters who often aren't prepared to cope with the demands that come with fame.
"We do [care] and that's why we go through this and spend all of this [expletive] money," he said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports. "There is so much coming at them. You have heard the stories about the guy making a $20 million payday. Someone comes up to him and said, 'Damn dude, you made $20 million. That's great. Let's go party.' Well, first of all, he didn't really make $20 million. The government's probably going to take half of that [in taxes]. He's got to pay his manager his share and the guys who worked in his camp and all of his expenses.
"You'd be surprised at how much the fighter actually walks away with at the end of the day. But in a lot of cases, the fighter thinks he has $20 million and he spends like he has $20 million. But then, the next year, he gets a tax bill for $10 million and he says, 'Now how in the [expletive] do I owe $10 million in taxes?' We want to educate these guys on a lot of things that maybe they don't know about or don't think about. They can always pick up the phone and call us, but by doing a summit like this, we can have the experts here for them and make it easy for them in a day, day and a half, to get a lot of very useful information."
The summit also included a session on conducting interviews, dealing with the media, the significance of social media, rules, merchandising, event production and insurance.
It also reinforced the notion that these fighters have reached the apex of their sport.
Other professional sports hold similar seminars, often for rookies. But from the UFC's biggest names to its greenest newcomers, all fighters were required to attend. Only those deep into their training for upcoming fights were excused.
"There are just so many different things that can become a problem, and if they know about them ahead of time, the chances of it becoming a big problem are a lot less," White said. "I deal with guys' problems all the time, and that's part of my job, but I'd rather they not have the problems in the first place."
- Dana White