Retired fighter Nate Quarry takes UFC to task on potential uniform, fighter treatment
From MMAJunkie.com (By Steven Marrocco February 19, 2014 9:00 am):
Retired middleweight and onetime UFC title challenger Nate Quarry remembers an unpleasant conversation he had several years ago with UFC President Dana White about a patch on his shorts. It followed one of many notices he received about the clothing he wore on his walk to the cage.
“This was back when Dana called fighters themselves to talk to them about sponsorships,” Quarry told MMAjunkie in a recent interview. “He called and said, ‘You can’t have SportFight. That’s a competing MMA organization.’
“I said, ‘Dana, it’s not. It’s just a small show here in Portland, (Ore.). It’s not televised; it’s never going to be competition with you. If it is, then I can definitely drop them. Don’t you think every bit of exposure for the UFC and the smaller shows is gong to build your own brand awareness and sell more pay-per-views?’
“His response was, ‘You’d think I’d think that, wouldn’t you? But I don’t. You can’t have them.’ So I lost, like, $500.”
As time went on, word came of other restrictions, according to a recent posting Quarry wrote on the popular MMA forum, the UG. They left fighters with fewer options to earn supplemental income in the most established way known in the business: selling ad space on their clothing.
Quarry, who was 32 years old when he appeared on the inaugural season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and fought for the UFC from 2005 to 2010, said he was recently motivated to write about the issue when he heard of plans to institute mandatory uniforms for UFC fighters, which, according to a report, will leave a limited amount of real estate for independently acquired sponsors.
“People have no clue from the outside what it’s like to fight for the UFC,” he wrote. “After spending 10-15 years chasing your dream, only to see that the company it’s been your dream to fight for cares nothing about the fighters and only cares about the bottom line.”
Quarry, now 41, was once an MMA analyst on the now-defunct “MMA Uncensored” show on Spike TV and is an outspoken advocate for upping compensation to fighters. At the same time, he acknowledges that the UFC is first and foremost a business.
He said that while the promotion often is generous in opening its pocketbook to help, it routinely skimps on support for the independently contracted combatants for travel and expenses. Combined with the restrictions on sponsors, he said the promotion is squeezing the fighters and needs to treat them better.
“If you think about your job, you either wanted to be treated really, really well and have your boss say, ‘Thank you so much for your work, and I’m sorry I can’t pay you more’ … or if you’re treated poorly, they don’t treat you well, but they pay me a lot of money and it’s worth it,” Quarry said. “Right now, I just don’t feel like either one of those is what the fighters are getting.
“I can’t say enough times how great the UFC has been for me. Dana White personally decided to pay for my back surgery that brought me back. ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ first season gave me my life in MMA. But it wasn’t a charity. They didn’t just dip into their pockets and throw all this money at me or the other fighters.
“It’s a business. They’re making money. They’re making a ton of money.”
Quarry said he made $10,000 to fight now-former middleweight champion Rich Franklin for the title in 2005 at UFC 56, a deal which came about after he turned down the promotion’s original offer for $8,000 to show and $8,000 to win. The promotion accepted his offer, he said, but crafted the deal so that if he lost, he went back to the pay of his previous contract, which started him at $5,000 to show and $5,000 to win.
For several years of his career, he said, he supported himself and his daughter on $10,000 a year.
“It’s really hard to build a future on something where you’re hopefully getting paid three times a year, and if you’re doing well, then maybe you have some money to put aside,” he said.
Quarry earned an overall record of 7-3 in the UFC and racked up three straight wins before his loss to Franklin. He said his eyes were opened to the financial reality of fighting after he graduated from “TUF,” where he served as a training assistant after an injury nixed his participation in the reality-show tournament.
“People seem to forget that we’re taxed like everyone else,” he said. “So it may sound really attractive to the average person – ‘This guy made $100,000 in his three fights.’ Well, take 30 percent right off the top, and then you’re down to $70,000. Then, generally, it’s 20 percent for your main camp. Now you’re down to $56,000, and if you’re fighting for the UFC, they give you two plane tickets and one hotel room. So you’ve got a plane ticket for yourself and your head coach. You don’t see just anyone with one cornerman. I was never going to allow my cornermen to pay to support me.
“It’s almost like you’re paying your way through college, and you hope at the end, you get a good enough degree to where you’ll make some serious cash.”
The UFC’s new uniforms could potentially raise the average level of sponsorship money if the promotion shares profits with the maker of the UFC-branded apparel. White also has promised a new sponsorship program that will put more money in the pockets of active fighters. Quarry, however, feels the promotion’s plans could make it harder than ever for fighters to make a living.
“To me, that’s just one more opportunity where the UFC could make it so much easier for the fighters to make extra money, since they’re not getting paid much,” he said.
UFC officials declined comment when contacted by MMAjunkie.
In speaking out, Quarry said he’s received the support of several active UFC fighters, though they all wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal by the promotion.
“I even had one fighter, a big heavyweight, contact me and say, ‘Man, you’ve got to erase the messages I sent you. I’m so paranoid they would somehow get them,’” he said.
One recently signed UFC fighter bucked the trend. Felice Herrig, who was recently inked to the promotion’s new women’s strawweight division, wrote on Instagram: “A lot of fighters like myself get paid more money from sponsors, and a lot is based on marketability and the style I bring to weigh-ins and also the fights. Taking that away takes a lot away from what they are trying to do as far as getting people hooked to [women's MMA].”
Quarry said he also wrote the blog because the MMA media has been ignoring negatives when covering the promotion.
“Most of the MMA websites are not very truthful,” he said, citing the promotion’s denial of credentials to sport-specific outlets in 2006 as a turning point in reporting. “There’s two kinds of truth. There’s a truth that shows everything, and there’s a truth that really focuses on the positive things.”
Quarry this past fall underwent his second back surgery to repair damage from degenerative disc disease, which causes the protective discs surrounding his spine to wear away. He works as a spokesperson for a medical device company he used for his first major back surgery and lives outside Portland in Lake Oswego.
Although he might not have much support, he said he’ll continue to speak out on the issue because it’s the right thing to do.
“I would like to see the fighters of the UFC be appreciated,” Quarry said. “Realize that this is why we’re big. People don’t buy pay-per-view because of Dana White. They buy it because of the fighters.”