Add Nate Quarry to the growing chorus of former UFC fighters who are taking aim at the company on a number of fronts.
Quarry has been out in force with criticisms of his former employer recently, authoring a post on the UG and giving wide-ranging interviews to Bloody Elbow and MMA Junkie on the topics of UFC fighter pay, contracts and the potential of the organization adopting “uniforms” for its athletes.
As former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre continues to speak openly about drug testing in MMA, Quarry’s most recent comments give some added momentum to a few of the sport’s most vexing issues.
“I always make a reference to my title fight against (Rich) Franklin,” Quarry told BE’s Steph Daniels. “I ask people, ‘What do you think a title fight main event, in the MGM Grand on pay-per-view will get you?’ People usually guess about a million dollars. I got paid $10,000. No bonus, no nothing. When I lost, I went back to my original contract of $5,000 to show and $5,000 to win. People are shocked by that.”
It’s always interesting to hear from former fighters, once they feel they have nothing to fear by speaking out about their careers. Too often in professional sports, the active participants fall back on platitudes and clichés to avoid saying anything of substance in public. Once they’ve made a clean break from the industry, they often find they can express themselves more clearly.
Whether those expressions should be categorized as reasoned criticisms or sour grapes must always be considered on a case-by-case basis.
For Quarry—a former Ultimate Fighter contestant, No. 1 middleweight contender and fight analyst—it’s hard to cast him as a bitter outsider with an axe to grind. During most of his latest interactions with fans and media, he comes off as level-headed and honest, if at times a bit naïve.
Among his complaints was the fragile security provided by UFC contracts, which give the company the option to release an athlete after a single loss. Again Quarry pitched his idea that new hires should be assured of at least three fights per year in the Octagon, with a minimum base salary of $10,000 per fight.
“That way, you know that at a minimum you’re making $30,000 for one year’s worth of fights,” Quarry said. “It’s tough. That’s close to poverty wages, but it at least gives a fighter some consistency; knowing that they’re going to have a job for at least a year. Nobody wants to show up at work knowing if they have an off day they’re going to be fired.”
Quarry—who said he lost his sponsorship with the And1 shoe company when the UFC instituted its current $50,000 fee for fighter sponsors—also questioned recent talk that the UFC could institute “uniforms” for athletes in the near future.
“Once again, that’s just completely screwing over the fighters,” he said. “I was making more money from sponsors than I was from fighting, quite often. To take that away…you’re saying once again that the UFC is all about the UFC.”
Give Quarry credit also for taking a pragmatic view of the idea of a fighter's union, the somewhat fanciful notion that is often bandied as the cure-all for what ails MMA, but has never—and likely will never—gain any traction in the sport.
“I don’t think a fighters union is even remotely possible,” he said. “I think it would take something like a major class action lawsuit. That could come in time; I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one in the next 5-10 years, because there will be so many guys retiring with nothing. They’ll see that they did all this work and have nothing to show for it."
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