Israel Adesanya discusses why he did not want to use free agency and argues that UFC fighters’shouldn’t have a second or three jobs’


Israel Adesanya won’t be following the same script as his friend and fellow UFC champion Francis Ngannou. “The Last Stylebender” opted to re-sign with the promotion ahead of his UFC 271 middleweight title defense against Robert Whittaker, inking a contract that has been touted as “one of the most lucrative multi-fight deals in company history” rather than leaning on the option of potentially testing free agency, as Ngannou has threatened to do in 2023 if he and the UFC are unable to reconcile their differences and come to terms.

Adesanya (22-1) is one of the biggest stars in the sport and MMA Fighting’s No. 2 ranked male pound-for-pound fighter in the world, so he likely could’ve commanded a hefty price tag on the open market. But while the middleweight champion sees issues he’d like to address in the UFC, the idea of leaving the organization was never one he truly entertained.

“For me, I like the UFC. I’ve always loved [the UFC],” Adesanya said during a recent in-studio appearance on The MMA Hour. This has been my dream. “This has been my dream. I’m in a spot where I really believe the UFC can step up. It’s true that [that], is my favorite fighter. It’s something I am speaking about. It’s my time. And the rising tide lifts all the ships, you know?

“I’m in a good position so I can just be like, ‘Right, thanks for the cheese.’ I just feel like guys who are starting out in the UFC shouldn’t have to have a second or third job than being a fighter, shouldn’t have to worry how they’re going to pay their manager or pay for their training. You should be able to train eight to 12 weeks, uninterrupted, have your family looked after, and still be able to fight. You know what, it’s true. Their training is going to make them a better fighter and you’re going to get better quality fights, and when that happens, trust me, rising tide lifts [all the ships]. Little details. It’s going to make everyone better.”

The issue of introductory fighter pay in the UFC is one that is important to Adesanya, and something he even addressed in his post-fight press conference after his UFC 271 win over Whittaker. Generally, new UFC fighters begin on a contract that earns them either $10,000 or $12,000 to show and another $10,000 or $12,000 to win, depending on whether they entered the organization through a Zuffa pipeline such as Dana White‘s Contender Series.

Many athletes have no option but to hold secondary jobs while they work their way up the ranks in the UFC, as the pay structure for newcomers and even some fighters hovering in the UFC’s middle class is far from lucrative, especially when factoring in the costs of taxes, training camps, managerial fees, and numerous other expenses that eat into fight purses.

Adesanya stated that he has reached a level of financial success where he can retire from MMA tomorrow while still being able to afford a comfortable life. He still feels the need to stand up for other fighters and his fellow teammates who don’t have as much.

“I don’t think it’s my duty, but I’ve got teammates who are at that level in the UFC and I know what some of them have to go through to make ends meet,” Adesanya said. “I feel like this is the NBA of fighting or the NFL of fighting — not just MMA, but fighting. It’s true. If you don’t mind, we shouldn’t need to have rookies [struggling],. The NBA gives the rookies nice checks. They don’t need a second job. Joe Blow doesn’t need a second or third job. He can just get by on his salary.

” I feel that we need to be there, and not on an uneven playing field. But we must be able look after our own, as well as the men who are just getting started, the rookies. Although I do not believe it is my responsibility, I will speak up if something I think is wrong. Like I mentioned, I love UFC and have always wanted to go. But when it smells strange, it makes it seem like it isn’t supposed to be. .”