Jorge Masvidal: PPV Money Was Sticking Point in UFC 251 Negotiations

Jorge Masvidal UFC
Jorge Masvidal UFC 244 open workout Credit: Marcus Rebelo/Cageside Press

Just when it seemed like the fight had fallen through, Jorge Masvidal is back in the UFC 251 main event. Back in his title fight with Kamaru Usman. Back on Fight Island. Well, shortly anyway.

It’s a fight that came dangerously close to being lost, after Masvidal refused to sign a deal he felt gave him significantly less than he was worth. Despite being one of the hottest fighters on the planet after his BMF title win at UFC 244 in New York last fall, the UFC seemed unwilling to open the purse strings and pay one of their stars for a dangerous title fight.

And so the shot went to Gilbert Burns instead, who has been on a tear in the welterweight division. Then, Friday, word broke that Burns had tested positive for COVID-19. His fight with Usman was off. Possibly pushed back to a later date.

In the background, the UFC had approached Jorge Masivdal however. And this time, negotiations went differently. Something “Gamebred” explained to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Monday.

“We had to break it down. That’s why some people don’t seem too happy as they were announcing it. They don’t want to talk about it too much, you could see it in their face, a little bit of anger and anguish,” Masvidal said, referring to how the deal went down. And how happy the promotion was to have to cough up a little extra coin.

To Masvidal, however, fighting is a career. Whatever others may think. “I’m gonna do my job always, which is provide for me and my family. I’m not gonna give a [f*ck] what anybody says, what this guy says, that guys says. I’ve been in this business a while,” he observed.

“I know what I generate, we know what we generate. It’s a numbers game. The numbers are there,” continued Masvidal. “It’s not ‘I think I deserve this.’ No. I see on paper what I bring in. We know, me and my team know what I deserve. So when we got undercut and lowballed, alright, cool, no problem. Let’s see what happens.”

Masvidal even predicted the turn of events that would come, telling his manager and several others that “at the last moment, they’re probably going to call me back.”

Which is what came to pass. “Bam, it happened!”

“I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, but I got very, very close to it,” Masvidal would later admit.

And he’s happy. “I’m happy more than anything that I get to break this guys face, and get paid for it. But one thing I’m not going to do, which I’ve done a long part of my career, is get underpaid. That’s not going to happen. Not from here going forward.”

After his fight with Darren Till, said Masvidal, he sat down with his management team and looked at the numbers, in terms of compensation, and where he needed to be. “We’re not there yet, but we’re headed in that direction. So moving forward after this fight, they’re going to be treating me accordingly.” That or, Masvidal added, he might just have to hold out again, and step in last minute just to get paid more.

One of the main sticking points when it came to the UFC’s original offer, said Masvidal, was the PPV side of things. Top stars in the UFC have long relied on PPV points (dollars per buy which tend to rise depending on the number of buys the card gets) to make up for lower base salary. Of course, in the ESPN era, PPV dollars have looked different for star fighters. Even as UFC officials have denied it.

“The initial deal [prior to Burns stepping in] was a sh*t deal on the pay-per-view end. And on the guarantee side. So I have two negatives,” Masvidal explained. “I could understand you don’t want to give me that much on the guarantee. But on the pay-per-view, what I bring in, what people purchase, I want more money on that, and they weren’t budging, and that was that. So all this craziness had to happen for them to come to their senses.”

At the same time, Masvidal is again locked into a long-term contract, he told Helwani. “You know how it is, bro. You want to get paid, you’ve got to sign a ten-fight contract every time.”

So don’t expect this to be the last time the sides butt heads over compensation, depending how things play out for the veteran fighter this weekend at UFC 251. For now, however, it’s off to Fight Island.