Dana White clarifies stance on fighter pay, says UFC made 'big mistakes' with Shane Burgos

·Combat columnist
·4-min read

UFC president Dana White hadn’t had a great rant in a while, but that changed on Tuesday during a 23-minute interview with Yahoo Sports. White erupted when asked about comments he made about fighter pay during a video last week with GQ.

For the interview, GQ gave White questions from Twitter and he answered them. Most were innocuous — one asked if he ever had hair — but the fighter pay one touched a nerve.

He was asked why the issue of fighter pay keeps arising. It’s a sensitive topic for White, who is being sued by a group of fighters over that and other issues. When he answered the question, he went to several familiar themes, noting that boxing is struggling because it overpays its fighters in his opinion.

“Fighters always want to make more money,” White said in response to the tweet. “Boxing has absolutely been destroyed because of money and all the things that go on. It’s never gonna happen while I’m here. Believe me, these guys get paid what they're supposed to get paid. They eat what they kill. They get a percentage of the pay-per-view buys and money is spread out amongst all the fighters.”

The line where he said, “It’s never gonna happen while I’m here,” got the most attention. ESPN, which is the UFC’s television partner, had a story summarizing the interview under the headline, “UFC president Dana White not planning fighter raises: ‘These guys get paid what they’re supposed to get paid'"

LAS VEGAS, NV- AUGUST 9: Dana White speaks to the media following week 3 of Dana White Contender Series on August 9, 2022, at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Dana White did not appreciate his 'fun' interview with GQ being taken out of context. (Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

White blasted reporters who did a story on his interview and was adamant that he didn’t mean fighters would never get raises.

He said the GQ spot was edited and was meant to be a fun, light-hearted piece.

“I’m doing a f***ing GQ piece,” White told Yahoo Sports. “I wasn’t sitting down with f***ing ‘60 Minutes’ talking about fighter pay. It was a fun, edited video piece — edited. That wasn’t the full f***ing interview. It wasn’t a serious interview. It was a fun, f***ing edited piece, and ESPN, the leader in sports, is going to write a story on fighter pay based off that f***ing video? Give me a f***ing break.”

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White later said of the ESPN piece, authored by highly respected reporter Marc Raimondi, “I didn’t see the story. I don’t even know who wrote it, but you’re not a journalist. You’re a f***ing scumbag.”

White was also upset that his line — “It’s never gonna happen while I’m here." —was interpreted as him saying fighters weren’t going to get raises.

He clarified he was saying he would never allow the UFC pay structure to be like boxing, where as a result of the huge purses paid to the stars, most shows lose money and other fights aren’t able to be made.

“Fighter pay has gone through the roof since the sale in 2016,” White said. “Fighter pay continues to go like this [pointing upward]. Yes. Do you think I’m going to sit here and say, ‘Fighter pay will never go up while I’m here.’ That’s the dumbest f***ing thing I’ve ever heard. And do you know how stupid you have to be to think that’s what I said in that interview when I was talking about boxing?”

White: Burgos 'should have still been here'

White did take the blame for the defection of featherweight contender Shane Burgos, who was ranked 14th, to the PFL. Burgos announced to MMA Fighting on Monday that he signed a new deal with the PFL.

Burgos posted a bag of money emoji on Twitter when the PFL announced his deal.

White said Tuesday the UFC should have kept Burgos.

“That’s a good question,” White said when asked why the company didn’t keep Burgos. “How do I answer that question? Basically, there were some mistakes that were made here, some s*** that … he should have still been here. I respect him very much and I wish him the best. A hundred percent [mistakes were made on the UFC side]. A hundred percent. Big mistakes were made over here."