Anderson Silva has a unique perspective on how the UFC does business, especially now that he’s on the outside looking in.
It’s been almost two years since “The Spider” parted ways with the promotion that he called home from 2006-2020, and at the moment, he’s looking ahead to a much-talked about boxing match against YouTube star Jake Paul that takes place Oct. 29 in Glendale, Ariz.
During an appearance on The MMA Hour on Wednesday, Silva spoke about Paul’s highly publicized feud with UFC President Dana White over fighter pay before offering his thoughts on the complicated relationship between the promotion and its fighters.
“It’s two things,” Silva said. “Jake and his brother [Logan] tried to bring attention to something very important. On the other side, when you come to UFC, you have your manager, you have your team, and you need to take care of your business, correct? What happens when people go to UFC and start talking about, ‘I don’t make money,’ and this and that — you have a chance to sign or not sign the contract. Your manager, your lawyer, and your team need to take care of this part of the business, because you don’t have time to focus on that. You need to take care because you represent your company. You have a contract to do a job in the UFC. It’s your company because you put in your body for crazy things. In UFC, you put in the business and put the whole thing for your name, to make the big show.
“In this case, I don’t think UFC is wrong or Dana is wrong. Dana tried to do your job and the UFC [gives you] a job. The problem is the fighters, when they go inside and sign the contract. You already signed the contract, you don’t have a chance to change except when the contract is done.
“My personal opinion, of course the UFC can pay the fighters better. Especially a couple of fighters doing something very, very incredible inside UFC and make the UFC name strong and powerful. Make more [respect] for the brand. But everything is about, talk to your manager, have a good thing behind you to protect you, so you don’t sign something you don’t like in the future. A lot of very talented fighters sign something very crazy because the manager doesn’t take care of the fighters. It’s only about numbers and money, and that’s the problem.”
Silva, 47, repeatedly emphasized the importance of fighters building a following by utilizing the platform afforded to them by the UFC, while pointing to the Paul brothers as examples of how one can increase their value. Both Jake and Logan Paul have parlayed their massive social media success into combat sports careers, with Jake owning wins over former MMA champions Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren, and Logan having gone eight rounds with Floyd Mayweather and also signing on with the WWE to become one its biggest attractions.
During his 14-year UFC run, Silva became one of the promotion’s most dominant champions, a fan-favorite fighter, and a consistent pay-per-view draw. He takes umbrage with fighters publicly complaining about their contracts, although he acknowledged that there’s one aspect of White’s approach to the business that has never sat well with him.
“It’s strange for me, because everybody signs and when inside they start talking, ‘You guys don’t pay me correctly,’ and this and that,” Silva said. “I never, in my life, talked about how much the UFC paid me because I fight a lot and that’s my problem with Dana — it’s not a problem, it’s a business, Anderson Silva is a company going inside the UFC and signing the contract . It’s two companies doing business together.
“My problem with Dana is [when he] talks about fights because Dana has never fought MMA in his life. That’s my problem, when he talks about, ‘You can’t do that, can’t do that, you don’t fight correctly.’ No, no, no, that’s my only problem with Dana. I think Dana is a good person. Everybody talks about Dana, ‘He’s not good, blah blah blah.’ He’s a good person, but he’s a businessman. UFC doesn’t get to this point now as a big, big company in the world if the people think, ‘I did something, I’m sorry fighters, I did something incorrect.’ No, the company grew up because of hustlers doing something and that’s the game. You’re inside or not. You can sign or not sign, you can go anywhere, but when you sign, you make the deal with my company. You can’t say anything because why did you sign? You signed. You have a contract. ‘Oh no, let me out of the contract.’ You signed the contract, you’ve seen the rules of the contract, why are you talking about it now? And I’m so lucky because I’m not in the UFC anymore and I have my own journey right now. I don’t need to say, ‘Can I do that?’ I don’t need to ask permission from the UFC or from Dana for absolutely nothing anymore.”
Silva has already competed in boxing twice since his last UFC fight, defeating former WBC champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in June 2021 and then knocking out fellow UFC legend Tito Ortiz inside of a round three months later.
If other fighters want to be afforded the same opportunities, he advises them to have the right team to help them better understand the business. Because change is unlikely to come from the UFC’s side.
“Dana is Dana,” Silva said. “He represents the UFC, he represents the UFC brand. It’s not fighters representing the brand, Dana represents the brand and people need to understand that. I don’t talk anything bad about Dana, that’s the truth. It’s who is representing the brand? It’s not fighters, it’s Dana White. It’s incredible because when you see the media and everybody waiting for Dana to come to start. Why? Because that’s the UFC brand, Dana White. [He does] good job. A lot of people talk bad, a lot of people talk a lot of things about Dana, but in my opinion Dana does his best job, continuing to be successful inside the sport.”
“I feel sad because, of course the UFC can pay the fighters more, especially the heavyweight guys and a couple of fighters,” Silva added later. “I think the UFC needs to understand that better because the world has changed and the new generation starts to think about this. Why fight in UFC? I go there to become famous and the guys don’t pay me good money for putting my life in danger. I lost one or two fights because I’m human, the guy’s going to kick me out and I lost everything.’ And the new generation started thinking about that. The people need to understand that’s the game, it’s about numbers. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the UFC, or in boxing, in a normal job, it’s a number. You make results, you’ll be successful. You don’t make good results, you’re out.”