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Fighters’ Union: Pouting Pays the Bills

Cover photo courtesy of Jorge Masvidal via Instagram

First thing’s first. Jorge Masvidal was never a journeyman. Many media members have irresponsibly asserted this and continue to. Yes, he had lost some split decisions, but he deserved to win most of them. Anyone who has followed the sport at least since 2014 knows that.

A post shared by Jorge Masvidal (@gamebredfighter) on Jun 6, 2020 at 2:42am PDT

He beat the piss out of Al Iaquinta and very clearly was up two rounds to zero before coasting in the third and final round. Iaquinta, in his common, simple-minded fashion then lashed out at the crowd who booed when he was announced the winner. All they ever did was use the two eyes in their head, I thought the screaming was kind of harsh. Iaquinta was never a real contender so the loss leads fans to think Masvidal is not elite.   

A post shared by Al Iaquinta (@aliaquinta) on Jul 24, 2016 at 7:21pm PDT

Now Masvidal has resolved to never coast and always look to finish. This has translated into highlights and shut out performances against surging and established names in the Welterweight division. With these victories he made two career changes.

First, he confirmed to the public how talented he has always been. Second, he gave himself leverage to headline big events and negotiate bigger fight purses.

Clout is a Weapon & a Drug

Talent is great, but not always accompanied by clout. Jorge Masvidal has used both in the past 16 months to get what he deserves.

Pay attention. Clout is the most important part of Masvidal’s story and the most important factor in UFC 251’s main event coming together. Conor McGregor, GSP, Nate Diaz and others have shown that sitting out can get you the money and opportunity you want.

A post shared by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on Jun 25, 2020 at 1:58pm PDT

You have to play this game to win, not stall. So, to survive you need drawing power that will hold over time. Masvidal does not have a huge social media following but sometimes that does not tell the whole story of who you are in the world. There are five names the casual public knows among active fighters: Jon Jones, Nate Diaz, Khabib, Conor and now Jorge Masvidal. All of them do what they have to do to get their money on their own.

Fighters’ Union

It seems like every few weeks fans and media members call for a Fighters’ Union. Frankly, UFC fighters do not need it.

Labor unions exist for worker security and to prevent forced overexertion. In an individual sport like this there is no security. However, self-imposed overtime can be a shortcut to more money, headliners and world titles.   

Masvidal blew the roof off of Madison Square Garden in November after fighting in March and July of the same year. He leveraged his position as a headliner across Nate Diaz for more money and he got it. He got the Welterweight title shot because of his popularity and win streak. The UFC wanted to pay him pennies, he rejected them and Gilbert Burns scrambled to pick them up off of the floor.

A post shared by Madison Square Garden (@thegarden) on Jun 30, 2020 at 5:00pm PDT

If more fighters want real money after they build their name, they need to follow Masvidal’s lead. He never would have been denied the title shot if Gilbert Burns wasn’t so anxious to undermine him. Fighters commonly think they are seizing an opportunity when they are really betraying each other.

If you’re a fan that said Masvidal was scared, or that, “fighters fight”, you don’t really want these guys to get paid. You want to exploit them just like their promotion does.

Know Your Worth

To get paid fighters need to promote themselves, be stubborn and hire great representation. You don’t have to disrespect anyone to be promote yourself; ask Darren Till, ask Paige VanZant, ask Sage Northcutt, ask Valerie Loureda, ask Khabib, ask a young Jon Jones or even GSP or an aging Anderson Silva.  

The last thing you need to do to if you want to get paid is take advice from guys like Chael Sonnen. He’s a “company guy”. He tells fighters not to leverage their promoters because it’s not fair etc. As if it were admirable.

A post shared by Frankie Edgar (@frankieedgar) on Dec 16, 2019 at 8:27pm PST

The same goes for the Frankie Edgar, Daniel Cormier and Robbie Lawler, “Yess Boss” type fighters. They might get paid but it’s never even close to what they are worth.  

If you have the clout, be like GSP and sit out as long as it takes. If you have the balls, be like Eddie Alvarez and test free agency. Always shop the UFC’s offer(s) if you are dissatisfied. If they don’t match your contract you have to move on.

A post shared by Eddie Alvarez (@ealvarezfight) on Apr 20, 2020 at 1:46pm PDT

Make demands, make them public and be ready to sacrifice for them. The fighters can form a union but they will just betray each other and make everyone look weak. Would any fighter want to be in a union with guys like TJ Dillashaw? Never put more faith in your competition than you would yourself.

The biggest draws can make the biggest change, as long as everyone stops volunteering to be taken advantage of because they are a “real fighter”. If fighters want to step in for someone, they should ask for money as well. If they say, “But we really need you to do this!”, they should tell them, “That sounds like a personal problem”.■

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