When your employer IS the problem


I’m sure this has happened somewhere.

For some reason, posts about quitting a job have garnered the most interest, so it’s only fitting that I end the week with another post about when to end a job. There are lots of career parallels that can be drawn from popular culture. Today’s comes from the fringes of pop culture, courtesy of the UFC (or, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, for the uninitiated).

In the interest of disclosure: I covered the organization from 2008-2013 for several publications and will resume covering the organization this year for Knockout Nation.

It’s been an interesting week for the organization. On the heels of one of its biggest stars fighting this weekend was a story of a fighter making $10,000 for a headlining fight in 2005 and the issue of fighters’ having their monetary prospects severely hampered by the UFC’s new on demand network, Fight Pass.

The first issue is addressed fairly easily. In 2005, the organization was hemorrhaging money. While fighter pay remains an issue, we can excuse the low wages of an organization that was nearly dead in the water nine years ago.

The issue of sponsorships is the focus of today’s post and highlights what happens when a company becomes more of an adversary than an ally to its employees. **

In December, the UFC announced the launch of Fight Pass, a subscription network that will allow users to stream live fights broadcast in other countries, access the organization’s vast archives and see exclusive preliminary fights for cards in the U.S. While Fight Pass may be a boon for the organization, only the hardest of hardcore fans is likely to sign on early, which poses a problem for low-level fighters confined to fighting on Fight Pass who need to secure sponsors.

Fighter sponsorship can net a fighter a pretty penny, but Fight Pass severely limits the amount of eyes a sponsor can attract versus traditional pay-per-view and television models.

When asked about this, UFC President Dana White simply passed this off as exclusively an issue for fighters:

“It’s not my fucking problem. Getting sponsorship is a problem. It’s tough. It’s hard to do. That question is ridiculous. If a guy fights on Fight Pass, first of all, he’s getting paid to fight. That’s what he’s getting paid for. That’s what he does. He gets paid to fight. How sponsorship works out for a guy is not my problem. That is not my problem. He’s a fighter, he’s getting paid to fight, period, end of story. Whatever extra money he makes outside of the UFC with sponsors and all that shit, that’s his fucking deal.”

MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas has an excellent refutation of the preceding statement and it’s worth a read. But one of the relevant passages is simply how this affects fighters barely able to get a foot in the door:

“Fight Pass cards do feature some marquee talent, but more routinely use fighters at the lower end of the UFC pay scale. Those athletes traditionally offset their modest pay with sponsors, to the extent possible, anyway. That critical cushion now appears to be in jeopardy for some of the competing fighters. That’s a perfectly legitimate concern that rates a real response.”

There’s no easier way to put this: Some companies look out for their employees. Some do not. Some do a phenomenal job masking their chicanery. Some are 20/20 level transparent about letting employees know what priorities come first.

rage quit

Unless you’re independently wealthy, I do not advise turning over a table if you come to the realization that your employer doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Here are a few warning signs:

If people are coming and going, assembly line style, there might be something bubbling under the surface. I’ve seen some entities treat their professions like gladiator sports where the survivors are somehow better than those that couldn’t – or chose not to – cut it. There are some high burnout industries, but companies that fail to keep or retain talent are ones that provide few, if any, prospects for long-term growth.

Work/life balance
If there’s any parallel to the UFC story in the real world, its work/life balance. There are organization’s that work employees’ to the bone, but act indignant when the issue of time off comes up. This is a major red flag.

Lack of professional development
A loose parallel to the UFC is a lack of professional development. Sponsors allow fighters to live more comfortably, either by providing money (for fights or appearances), product or both. A lack of sponsors has an adverse effect on a fighters’ bottom line. Conversely, a lack of professional development opportunities ensures that you’ll only go so far at your current work place. You won’t be able to move up because you won’t have the skills to do so.

The UFC is the world’s premiere mixed martial arts organization. However, sponsorship policies that hurt fighters may make upcoming talent seek out other organizations. In the world of work, sometimes the it organization may not be the best for your bottom line or career. And sometimes, you may need to leave the top dog to further your career.



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