Trying to keep a roster of several hundred fighters in line has always been a difficult task, but UFC president Dana White made it seem easy, if a little ruthless at times. Things seem to have changed, though, following the $4 billion sale of the league. More and more fighters have been speaking out regarding pay and refusing to just accept whatever fight the company offers them.
Welterweight champ Tyron Woodley still hasn’t agreed to fight number one contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, angling instead for superfight opponents like Georges St. Pierre or Nick Diaz. Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson also balked when White declared he might face Jon Jones next instead of Daniel Cormier. There’s also Conor McGregor refusing the UFC’s request to defend his featherweight belt. And now former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is getting in on the defiance, albeit in his own unique way.
“I’m here (in New York) next week for fashion week,” he told Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour radio show. “I‘ve got some big contracts that we are working up right now. I’m meeting some top brands and talking about some deals we can potentially jump into in that market, as far as modeling. I’m talking about getting paid. We’ll keep it under wraps. But we are talking top tier brands.”
That’s right, Luke is ready to take his pretty face out of the Octagon and onto a catwalk.
“I’m a fighter at heart, but I am here to get paid. If there is more potential there, I will take it. And we are talking big numbers. So I can laugh, let my body heal and wait until the time is right to come back when it makes sense.”
How did we get to a place where the top ranked fighter at middleweight can potentially make more money modeling than prize fighting? Rockhold is one of the better paid fighters on the roster as well, pulling $250,000 in his last loss to Michael Bisping. Your average MLB outfielder may make ten times that amount in a season, but models? Perhaps Rockhold is taking into account the money he saves by not having to run extensive training camps, and the value of not putting his body through the MMA meat grinder? However he’s calculated his math, he seems fully prepared to disappear into the world of male modeling until the UFC gives him a better deal.
“I have a good relationship with UFC, for sure,” he continued. “They are always going to try to … it’s business and they are going to try to make things to their advantage. They will try to take advantage of certain things and put you in a place and do what they can. It’s business and it’s how it is. But guess what? I got my own business on the side and I can stand my ground, too, and I can take some time off and make some money.”
There’s a good chance the UFC will simply leave Rockhold to his modeling ambitions and move on without him. That’s always been their plan of attack when a fighter tries to strong arm them for more money, and if Dana White is willing to call Georges St. Pierre washed up and done rather than renegotiate his contract, what chance does Luke have? But Rockhold is just the tip of what may be a Titanic sized iceberg. Between many top fighters making less than a million a year and union forces reaching out to lower level UFC fighters, a perfect storm may be brewing that could drastically change the amount of money flowing to the fighters. And it sounds like Luke is willing to wait on the sidelines until it does.