Dana White and the UFC are still printing money. Following a successful 2021 with spectators returning to the arenas for events, the price of the brick is going up. Purchasing a UFC pay-per-view event will now cost $74.99, per Newsday’s Mark LaMonica. This new price increase will be the third since MMA behemoth signed its lucrative 5-year, $1.5 billion contract with ESPN in 2018. At that time, the price of a pay-per-view event was $59.99.
The UFC has been growing at a rapid pace in recent years, and White said that they had their best year ever in 2021 with an estimated $8.6 million pay-per-views purchased. UFC’s parent company, Endeavor, netted 63.6 million in income during Q3 of 2021. It appears that Endeavor buying out 100 percent of the UFC early in 2021 was a great investment, even if it was done soon after the first year of the COVID pandemic that hurt profits in all live entertainment industries.
For fight fans, their first opportunity to fork over that $74.99 will be in a few weeks. On Jan. 22, Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou will take on Interim Heavyweight Champion Ciryl Gane in a title unification bout. The UFC’s first major event of 2022 should also serve as a reminder that while profits and prices are going up, the pay for fighters is not happening at the same rate.
If it seems odd there is an Interim Heavyweight Champion when there’s an active Heavyweight Champion, and that’s because it is odd. Ngannou won the belt in March 2021, but terms could not be reached on a summer title defense in Houston, so in August, Gane defeated Derrick Lewis for the interim title — less than five full months after Ngannou’s win.
Why did the fight fall through? It’s hard to tell from the back and forth between Ngannou’s manager and White on social media, but what’s well known is that Ngannou, like several high-profile UFC fighters, is not happy with his contract and with his pay. He has one fight left on his contract and has not reached an agreement on a new one, but even after the Jan. 22 fight, there are ways for the UFC to keep him under contract. In Oct. 2021, Ngannou told Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour that negotiations have not gone well at all, and he still needs to borrow money.
Ngannou tweeted about that ridiculous Logan Paul, Floyd Mayweather fight in June 2021. The less famous of the Paul brothers said to TMZ that he could make up to $20 million off of the Mayweather fight. Whether that statement was true or not, Ngannou was not happy about it.
In an antitrust lawsuit that the UFC lost in 2020, the plaintiffs argued that along with the UFC trying to create an MMA monopoly, the fighters receive just under 20 percent of the revenue.
That revenue sharing model has Ngannou on Twitter going back and forth with boxing lineal Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury, trying to instigate a match in a sport he doesn’t compete in that he can’t win, all in the hopes of cashing in on at least one major payday.
While the UFC is raising prices, taking in more money from its parent company, and with its five-year deal with ESPN ending soon, a massive new media deal on the way, the fighters are going to get stuck with the fries at the bottom of the bag.