How would you like to hire trainers, sparring partners, dial in your diet and devote eight weeks of your life to preparing for the biggest fight of your life, then find out the day before the fight it’s not going to happen? Not only that, but the “show money” you were supposed to receive for the fight got cut in half? You did your job and everything in your power to make the fight happen and by no fault of your own it was canceled.
This appears to be the situation top UFC lightweight Tony Ferguson finds himself in.
We’ve heard in the past that fighters like Ferguson still get their “show money” when instances such as what occurred with his scheduled opponent Khabib Nurmagomev happen. When a scheduled UFC 205 bout between Tim Kennedy and Rashad Evans was scrapped due to the commission refusing to issue Evans a license due to an undisclosed medical issue, BOTH fighters reportedly received their “show money”.
Ferguson told MMAJunkie he received “less than half” his contracted $250,000 “show money”:
“It was like a slap to the face. My training expenses were a lot larger than any other fight I’ve ever done because this was supposed to be the biggest fight of my career. So now I’m sitting here, and it’s like, what is my worth to the UFC? Like, do I not fight enough? Do I not bleed enough for them? It’s going through my head right now, because I didn’t lose.
“I did everything in my power that I could to show up on that scale, and that’s what I thought we were going to do. That’s why you call it show money. And to every fan that’s out there in the world, (UFC President) Dana (White), he said they cut me out a check, and I didn’t get a check, and then this morning I got my wire, and I’m looking at it and I’m like, ‘What the frick, man?’ I’m like, ‘Seriously?’”
The UFC offered Ferguson a replacement fight against Michael Johnson at UFC 209, except they wanted him to take a pay cut and he wasn’t having that. Ferguson said he would have helped save the card had they given him the pay he originally showed up for.
UFC President Dana White reportedly told him his contracted pay for the event had already been budgeted and the company was taking a loss on the replacement fight.
Ferguson felt like he was being short-changed:
“He said, ‘We budget for these fights.’ Those are his exact words. So then you had it, but you don’t want to fork it over. That’s like, all right … How am I supposed to like the company I work for if I’m short-changing me? He was telling me he was taking a loss from this, and I’ll bet you he’s somewhere out on his boat, or doing something on his jet, laying $250,000 down on a craps table.”
Dana White wipes his ass with $250,000. On the other hand, contractually it doesn’t appear the UFC is obligated in any legal sense to pay a fighter’s “show money” if they don’t fight. But why they apparently do it sometimes and not others, is anyone’s guess. The new corporate ownership surely can’t help foster beneficence toward fighters.
It’s a tough situation to be in. Ferguson did his job. He trained, he made weight, he showed up. He had no obligation to fight Michael Johnson, the only guy in the UFC to ever beat him [by decision in 2012] on one day’s notice. And he especially had no obligation to fight him for lesser pay. What’s next for Ferguson is not known. Lightweight champion Conor McGregor is on hiatus, and with Khabib’s recent health scare, who knows when he’ll be back.
UFC 209’s main event left a sour taste in a lot fans’ mouths. Having a rematch between the No. 2 and No. 6 lightweights, Ferguson and Johnson, would have at least eased some of the disappointment of losing the Ferguson-Nurmagomedov fight and then ending the pay-per-view on a snoozer.
So this is where we are.