I support this idea [of a salary for fighters], of course. In the NFL, Nike makes the uniforms, but teams still pay their athletes, the same goes for NBA. Life gets hard for fighters who are just starting and earn no pay-per-view money. We spend a lot with trainers, sparring partners, etc. Nobody in this day and age goes to a gym to be punched in the face for free. Whether we like it or not, we are susceptible to injuries which could leave us sidelined for a long time. That harms the fighter who only gets paid when he fights. If you’re hurt, there’s no income. It’s good to have sponsors, because that’s what keeps a fighter going.
Nobody has spoken to me about a union, but it would be great. It’s a way to protect athletes, it could really help. Nobody considered this. Fighters are too disunited because rivalries between gyms in the past. Of course this is not as strong as before, but it still happens. It’s like this, if I don’t fight for a price tomorrow, somebody else will accept that money… Today, I can’t see myself responsible for this. I need to live the fight, I’m a champion and I can’t put that aside. My life as an athlete is still strong so it’s hard for me to do this today, but maybe one day, once I’m done fighting. I’ll look into this and together with others, we could arrange something to help new fighters.
-UFC Featherweight Champ Jose Aldo talks to Combate.com about the idea of a fighter salary, a fighter union, and why he’s not so sure he’s ready to lead the charge just yet (translated by Lucas Rezende at BloodyElbow.com).
Penick’s Analysis: This one of the significant obstacles to fighters getting organized. This is an inherently selfish endeavor for an athlete; it’s about each individual maximizing what they’re capable of earning by showcasing how much they can draw an audience. That’s not conducive to teamwork on a wide scale. Still, someone like Aldo is needed in the push for organizing athletes on the whole, because without those with negotiating power already or those who are in a higher profile spot, it’s hard for anything to get off the ground. If Aldo joined in the efforts for a fighter’s association, they might be able to make more significant strides at a faster pace. For now, though, he’s still concentrating on his own career, and he can’t be blamed for that either. At some point, if he wants to see change, he’ll need to make more of an effort himself to get involved. Until then, the vocal support is still helpful, just not to the extent he could be. As to the salary aspect, it’s something that could be a massive improvement for fighter contracts in the sport. Guaranteeing a certain amount per year whether injuries delay fights or not, perhaps with escalators for wins and performances, would help these professional athletes ensure that they’re getting paid even when they don’t get a fight in. That’s an important move forward for the sport as well.