Posted 05/06/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

Nate Diaz Removed From UFC Rankings and Zuffa’s Florida Financials

Thanks go out to the UFC for not hosting an event the past weekend, making my move into a new apartment marginally less stressful. (Here’s a Moving Pro Tip for all of you: When moving with a (romantic) partner, hire someone to move your shit for you.) The UFC schedule returns to its normal craziness this week with 13 events scheduled through the end of July, though with weekly gaps thanks (?) to a weekend in each month hosting two events. In the absence of a fight card to review, here’s a look a couple of recent stories from the world of MMA.


The UFC removed both TJ Grant and Nate Diaz from their rankings this week. The UFC, conceivably, will cite inactivity for Grant’s removal. The Canadian hasn’t fought since beating Gray Maynard on May 25th of last year thanks to a concussion suffered during training. MMA Fighting reported that Grant put himself at “90-95 percent” and was targeting the UFC’s October 4th show in Halifax for his return. Grant also noted that he had yet to start training “full on.” (Note that the UFC still lists Dominick Cruz, who hasn’t fought in over two years.)

Diaz’s removal is less clear. He fought just over five months ago, finishing – you guessed it – Gray Maynard at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale. He requested his release from the promotion at the end of February, and followed that up with demands for a larger paycheck. Dana White told him to get back in the cage.

According to an ESPN report, the UFC dropped Diaz from the rankings for “refusal to accept bouts.” That same report also cited Diaz’s manager, Mike Kogan, acknowledging that he and his client turned down a bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov for “financial reasons,” confirming that the UFC is making their rankings rules up on the spot.

This latest kerfuffle further highlights the problems with the UFC hosting its own rankings. Many of the major names in the media have opted out, citing the time commitment and/or disinterest and/or a conflict of interest. That leaves a panel largely full of members largely excited to participate in the circus, and leads to things like ballots being turned in with Stipe Miocic and Hector Lombard ranked as the number-one challengers in their respective divisions.

Those participating members are operating under a criteria with few guidelines. The official site lists this:

“Rankings were generated by a voting panel made up of media members. The media members were asked to vote for who they feel are the top fighters in the UFC by weight-class and pound-for-pound. A fighter is only eligible to be voted on if they are in active status in the UFC. A fighter can appear in more than one weight division at a time. The champion and interim champion are considered to be in the top positions of their respective divisions and therefore are not eligible for voting by weight-class. However, the champions can be voted on for the pound-for-pound rankings. Rankings will be updated approximately 36 hours after each event.”

In short, the entire thing is a mess. In an ideal world, the UFC would scrap the whole project and find some independent rankings to note on their broadcasts. I’ll give you some time to laugh. In the slightly less ideal world, the UFC would scrap the whole project, full stop. But this is the UFC and they want rankings and they want ultimate control of those rankings.

With that in mind, why not remove the media from the equation and hand over a ballot to matchmakers Joe Silva and another ballot to Sean Shelby and let them have it? Silva and Shelby watch more fights than anyone on the planet and understand MMA better than anyone currently handing in rankings. Sure, the rankings would be overtly compromised, but that’s only marginally worse (if worse at all) than the current arrangement anyway.


Thanks to John Nash at Bloody Elbow, we have a rare look at Zuffa’s finances. Nash acquired documents from the Florida State Boxing Commission detailing not just the usual fighter payouts and gate numbers, but also gross sales at the event and broadcast payments. Those numbers break down as such:

Fighter salaries: $974,000
“Souvenirs, programs & concessions, less state and federal taxes”: $522,383.35
Ticket sales: $1,553,737.50
“Broadcast, television or motion rights”: $2,272,000
Various taxes: $149,958.45

When we add it all up (less taxes), the UFC paid 22.4% of the reported event revenue out as fighter salaries. That number jumps up to 27% when we include the four “Performance of the Night” bonus awards. The report doesn’t include money the UFC made from sponsors, nor what the UFC pays out in its infamous “locker room” bonuses.

Athletes in the four major American sports leagues typically make around 50% of league revenues. (Of the three leagues with a salary cap, NFL players make 47%, NHL players 50%, and NBA players a range between 49 and 51%.). We have no idea if 22.4% (or 27%) is typical or atypical, an any judgement made from these numbers is premature. But it raises an interesting question: What percentage of revenue should the UFC pay out its fighters?

Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter


Mike Fagan