Jorge Masvidal has been option number one to fight UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman for several months. It is taking a lot of time to try and settle on negotiations. Masvidal recently joined UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in making public comments about the UFC not paying him what he's worth and demanding his release.
The UFC has been trying to line up Usman vs. Masvidal for quite some time, but hasn't been able to get both sides of the fight to agree simultaneously. Masvidal has now gone public, making it quite clear that he is one of the parties that is currently disgruntled about the negotiations.
Masvidal's tweet saying "shouldn't be this hard to get a deal done" could be taken many ways, but he cleared up any confusion about where he stood in successive posts to Twitter.
Dana White declares UFC fighters don't have to fight
UFC president Dana White on Friday addressed Masvidal's tweets, saying, "Anybody that doesn’t want to fight doesn’t have to fight, including Masvidal and Jon Jones and all these other guys."
He realizes that everybody wants more money, but has frequently stated how much extra money the UFC is paying just to be able to hold fights because of safety precautions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, including aggressive testing protocols. White has also noted that the UFC is set to lose more than $100 million in 2020 because it is unable to have audiences at events, thus negating any money from would-be ticket sales.
The UFC's parent company, Endeavor, has gone through multiple rounds of layoffs and cutbacks, but White has been adamant that none of his fighters or employees would take a pay cut or be laid off. Increasing pay during this time may be a bit of a different story.
“I think everybody wants more money,” White said at his UFC 250 weigh-in scrum. “I think everybody wants more money in all these other sports. Masvidal says, ‘You’ve got enough money to buy islands.’ Let me repeat for the (expletive) billionth time: I did not buy an island, okay? We did not buy an island.
“The reason we’re doing the (‘Fight) Island’ is so that fights can go and these kids from Europe and the rest of the world can make money and can work. I think a lot of people are really frustrated and confused or whatever the situation is right now.”
Masvidal certainly took umbrage at White's comparing the UFC to other professional sports, likely meaning the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball, which all have player unions that leverage the athletes's bargaining power as a group.
"Please don’t compare us to these other leagues. I wish we can negotiate for less pay like the other leagues where the players get half the revenue they generate," Masvidal wrote.
"We are negotiating from like what 12% to maybe 18% of revenue we generate? We are negotiating down from way under 50% of the revenue. I don’t get paid on the hot dog you sell in the arena or the logo on the cage. I’ve never made a dollar on a ticket you sell. I get punched in the face for a living and even I know the pandemic or what’s left of it has nothing to do with it."
Are UFC fighters independent contractors or employees?
White went on to note that because his fighters are independent contractors, they have the option to accept a fight or not. Whether it relates to safety concerns about the coronavirus pandemic or not, a fighter does not have to accept a fight.
“It doesn’t have to be because of the pandemic. These guys are independent contractors. This isn’t like the NFL where I can make you come to practice and you do this or you’re going to get fined or you’re going to get this. These guys can do whatever they want," said White.
“We’re offering fights because, in our contract, I have to give you three fights a year. You have the ability to turn them down and not take them.”
The status of UFC athletes as independent contractors versus employees has been a point of contention for years. It has been the subject of legal battles, some of which continue today.
Masvidal was clear what side of the argument he falls on.
"I'm not an independent contract if I can't go anywhere else to make a living. Let me go and let me wee if I'm worth it."
With big names like Jones and Masvidal now challenging White and the UFC brass, is it possible that there are changes afoot in the battle by some fighters for a union? It certainly has the feeling that there could be a difference, but it will still take the individual athletes to come together if that is what the likes of Jones and Masvidal hope to achieve.
White looking at Gilbert Burns to fight Kamaru Usman
For now, it appears White is ready to move beyond Masvidal and offer the Usman title fight to Gilbert Burns, who is currently on a hot streak.
When asked specifically if Burns might jump the line, White admitted that he is the front runner.
"Yeah. Listen, the kid wants to fight. He wants to fight. These other guys don't want to fight," White stated. "He's begging for the fight, and he's the number one ranked guy in the world."
Dana White: Jorge Masvidal and Jon Jones don’t have to fight! (FULL UFC 250 scrum)
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