Ever since the UFC sold to WME-IMG last year, fighters have been coming out of the woodwork complaining about pay and treatment. It’s pretty understandable … once you see the promotion you work for sell for $4.3 billion, it makes you really look at your own paycheck and wonder why some of those zeros don’t trickle down. The latest to do so is flyweight champion Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson, who has up until this point been a company man through and through. But as his open letter reveals, he hasn’t been happy with his treatment for a while.
We’ll get to the full thing below, but here’s the bullet points: Demetrious is upset with the UFC for refusing to give him pay-per-view points (a dollar amount per PPV reserved for the company’s biggest stars) and with UFC president Dana White for trying to force him to fight TJ Dillashaw, who is being offered an immediate title shot despite never competing at flyweight.
Arguments could be made for both sides. Johnson feels like the UFC doesn’t promote him well, which leads to his lack of popularity, which is why he’s not getting the kind of money other UFC stars make. The UFC could respond by saying they’ve been pushing Demetrious as the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC for years, and he still doesn’t move the needle. To make up for his inability to sell PPVs, they bumped his pay up to $350,000 per fight, which may not seem like much in major league sports dollars but isn’t bad for a flyweight division that doesn’t help the UFC’s bottom line much.
Fan reaction is split between those who think Johnson deserves better treatment and those who think he’s trying to duck TJ Dillashaw, who would be his toughest competition in a long time. The truth is probably somewhere in between, where DJ expects more from the UFC if they expect more from him. Consider this letter just the latest negotiating tactic in an effort to get his.
For years I have been a company man and kept quiet, accepting fights, doing as they asked, and always remaining humble and grateful for the opportunities provided to me through mixed martial arts. This is how I was raised through the sport. Unfortunately, UFC’s mistreatment and bullying has finally forced me to speak out. I’ve decided to speak out now as I feel like my values and character as a person and a fighter are being tarnished by an organization I’ve done nothing but sweat and bleed for over the last seven years of my life. If it takes me speaking up and encouraging other fighters to ban together to start getting fair treatment, then so be it.
UFC Matchmaker Mick Maynard called and offered the fight vs. Ray Borg. I thought [Sergio] Pettis was a more marketable name and on a longer winning streak. Mick went back to Dana, then came back and told us that I had no choice, it was going to be Ray Borg, not Pettis, and there were no other options. That was the command from Dana and company. This would mean that my only chance at PPV points at flyweight was vs. Ray Borg. I said OK, but it’s not fair to make that my only chance at PPV points, when Cody Garbrandt is saying he wants to come down and fight me at flyweight, which was the fight I wanted. We told Mick that to be fair we would take the fight, but [we] want PPV points for future fights at flyweight. Mick agreed and said it was fair and didn’t see any problem with that situation. Mick spoke to Dana and [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby, who then told him to deny giving me any future PPV points for all of my future flyweight fights. Further, I still had to fight Ray Borg and they were giving me no other choice. I accepted the fight with Ray and decided to deal with the unfair situation and despicable treatment by Dana and Sean after I succeed in breaking the consecutive title fight defense record in my next fight vs. Borg. Mick thanked me for accepting the fight, knowing that I was being screwed over and mistreated by Dana and Sean.
I wanted a reason for not being allowed any future PPV points. Sean Shelby called and told us how smaller fighters don’t sell, that UFC can’t make stars of anyone, and that a fight between Cody and I wouldn’t be a sellable fight. We disagreed. I think a fight between Cody and I would be popular if it was even given a small serving of the marketing efforts put into other big fights.
UFC has failed to market and promote me appropriately. Prior to my last fight, where I tied the record for the most consecutive successful title defenses, we waited to re-post UFC’s social media posts about me from their Facebook page. There weren’t any posts until a few days into fight week, then, there were a total of two posts. In comparison to others who they promote across their social media platforms, they failed to do their job in promoting me and that monumental event. In my recent conversations, Sean and Dana have confirmed UFC’s lack of desire to put any effort into promoting us.
In addition to the above, I want to address the lack of marketing and promotion of the flyweight division, even though Dana will claim otherwise. I would challenge that the UFC doesn’t even market the division. It’s been three years since the UFC launched three new divisions in two years (2012 to 2014) where they focused most of their marketing efforts to grow female mixed martial arts, which I understand. But, we are now three years post-launch, and the company continues to do the bare minimum in marketing the division well past the launch of these other divisions. As a fighter, I pay very close attention to the amount of marketing that goes into and around my fights and I can tell you that you’d be hard pressed to find much that has been done to promote me outside of TUF 24, which was minimal in comparison to other fights, fighters and shows. With me, the UFC chooses not to market the best fighter in the world and arguably the greatest fighter of all time. I can’t think of any other sports organization in the world that has the best player in the sport where the league, or the organization, doesn’t market that player to their loyal fan base to sell more of their product. Look at my track record for showing up to fights. Look at my track record of finishing fights. Look at my track record of getting fight night bonuses. Ask yourself if you think that if the UFC decided to truly put marketing dollars behind me that they couldn’t sell me or my fights.
Completely unrelated — and after the accepted fight vs. Ray Borg — Cody Garbradt injured his back and TJ Dillashaw said he wanted to fight me. Dana told me he wanted me to fight TJ, which I disagreed with for multiple reasons. First, TJ has never fought at flyweight and is unlikely to make the weight, which would then eliminate the possibility of breaking the title defense record. Second, they have already told me that a fight between Cody and I wouldn’t be sellable, so fighting TJ would have no monetary upside. Third, TJ is not a flyweight or a current champion in another weight class and was KO’ed by the flyweight whom I beat twice already. Last, Ray Borg and I already agreed to the fight, which UFC tyrannically demanded, while denying me any future PPV points.
After telling Dana my reasons, Dana angrily told me that I am fighting TJ, once again, with no other option or say in my career, and against the plans we had previously laid out. He went on further to say that if I didn’t take the fight against TJ, and drop Borg as the opponent, he would get rid of the entire flyweight division. He said, this is for TJ and I’m taking away TJ’s opportunity. That fact that he feels that what I should do in my career is for TJ, tells where his priority lies.
Sorry Dana, my career is about Demetrious Johnson and my goals of fighting the best current flyweights, breaking the record of title defenses, going after the bantamweight champion after I have broken the record, and making money for my family. My career is not about doing for Dana’s buddy, who is neither a bantamweight champion or flyweight contender. We ended by disagreeing and left it there. The next day, Dana went to the media and announced that I was fighting TJ Dillashaw, in an obvious attempt to bully me in the media and tarnish my reputation. I posted a short statement letting people know that I had not agreed to the TJ fight, but had already agreed to fight Ray Borg, as demanded by UFC.
Dana put up an interview stating that it was “insane” that I didn’t want to fight TJ, that “he makes the matches and that is the match he is making,” and, “You tell me why DJ doesn’t want to fight TJ,” trying to make it as though I am scared or ducking TJ Dillashaw.
Mick spoke to me to try to change the offer from Ray to TJ. I told Mick that I thought TJ should fight once in the division first, prove he can make the weight and get a win at that weight, then fight me if I wasn’t already busy with Cody. Mick agreed that it made the most sense.
Later Mick called again, as mandated by Dana, to try to make the fight with TJ and drop Ray. We told him that we didn’t think TJ would make the weight and the fight would be off since it would no longer be a title fight without TJ making weight. Mick said they guaranteed that TJ would make weight. We told him that since it was guaranteed by TJ and UFC was demanding and putting me in a bad circumstance, then it is fair that if TJ didn’t make weight, the fight would be off and I would still get my guarantee, plus TJ’s guaranteed pay. Mick said that Ray would be on the card and he could fill in if TJ didn’t make weight. We said, oh, then which one do I train for? I thought TJ guaranteed he was making weight. Is it a world championship with the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on earth, or an amateur tournament where I don’t know who I’m fighting until I get there. Obviously there was no guarantee and they just wanted to push me to do something that they knew wasn’t a good choice for my career. The “guarantees” that they made had nothing to back them up and they were unwilling to give a real guarantee to compensate me for all the damage I put on my body preparing for a fight that may not happen. The fact that they said Ray will be a backup shows the lack of respect they have for what we go through in preparing for a fight at this level.
Mick went back to Dana and Sean, then came back and told us that they don’t agree with my request and I have to fight TJ with no guarantee to make weight or financial incentive if he doesn’t make weight. This is typical of the unfulfilled promises and bullying that has gone on through my UFC career.
I agreed to their tyrannical demand to fight Ray Borg and Ray also agreed.
UFC has refused to give me PPV points on any future flyweight bouts, and has never given me any PPV points on previous bouts. My request was fair and the matchmaker in charge of the flyweight and bantamweight division agreed.
I gave UFC fair conditions to change the fight to TJ Dillashaw and they refused.
Dana and Sean have told me that they have no interest in marketing me or the smaller divisions, so when they say that I will make PPV money vs. Dillashaw, they leave out the fact that I have to hit certain numbers of buys, which will not be hit if they fail in marketing me like they have in my previous fights.
If TJ doesn’t make weight, I can’t break the record for the most consecutive title defenses and they have denied paying me in that circumstance.
Dana has made an effort to bully me in the media as well as in private, in order to get what he wants, even though it is not what is best for me or the sport.
If Dana says this will be a big PPV fight for me, and that they will promote it properly, then he can pay for it up front and explain to Ray Borg why he is being taken out of the fight that the UFC matchmaker in charge of the division put him in. Otherwise, it is just another lie and attempt to bully me to do something that Dana wants, but is not the right thing to do for the sport or my career.
UFC’s track record in making an effort to promote my fights, and Dana’s claim that this is a big chance for PPV dollars for me tells a different story than what Dana is stating to the public.