Over the last two weeks, two of the UFC’s top stars, Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal, have publicly vented over frustrations stemming from contract negotiations on their next respective fights. First, it was Jones, who has teased a move to the heavyweight division recently, calling out the UFC over refusing to pay the money required to book a Francis Ngannou super fight. He then requested his release and threatened to vacate the light heavyweight belt.
Masvidal followed suit, expressing frustration over his purse for an expected title fight against Kamaru Usman. He eventually asking for his release, too.
Following the UFC 250 weigh-ins on Friday, UFC president Dana White responded to the latest outcry by sending a clear message to Jones, Masvidal and any other fighters pushing back for better pay: don’t fight.
“These guys are independent contractors,” White said, per MMA Fighting. “This isn’t like the NFL, where I can make you – you come to practice, and you do this, or you’re going to get fined. These guys can do whatever they want. They can say whatever they want.”
While White may not have the power to “fine” fighters for not competing, he does control over what their future in the sport looks like. And Masvidal was quick to point out that they can’t freely move over to a competitor due to promotional agreements.
— Jorge Masvidal UFC (@GamebredFighter) June 5, 2020
Masvidal also retweeted retired UFC fighter DaMarques Johnson, who used White’s NFL comparison to breakdown the pay discrepancy based on revenue splits.
I don't know shit, but one of these things is not like the other
— DaMarques Johnson (@DaMarques_UFC) June 5, 2020
For now, it appears Masvidal and Jones are happy to hold out for better pay. But until they get buy-in from the sport’s other big names, it appears White is just fine booking other top stars.