Leave it to Jake Paul to be a man of the people. The internet celebrity turned wannabe professional boxer, who beat former UFC welterweight champion Tyrone Woodley on Sunday in Cleveland, has caught the Achilles heel of UFC president Dana White. White has a plethora of detractors who have been trying to take him down for years. Mainstream media outlets that tilt to the left hate the fact the UFC has gone from fringe sport to flirting with mainstream success. Whether you give White, or superstar billionaire Conor McGregor , the most credit for this, is still up for debate, but you can’t deny the rise of the premier mixed martial arts company in the sporting world’s landscape. White navigated the pandemic better than any other professional league, only briefly stopping before moving to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, and then returning to the Mecca of combat sports in Las Vegas. Even without fans, the UFC hit a home run in 2020. White caught the ire of everyone from The New York Times to The Guardian , and politicians and public figures alike who called him reckless and accused him of endangering thousands of people. Turns out they were wrong, and of course, in typical White fashion, he rubbed it in their faces . White has helped elevate the UFC to heights it never dreamed it could go when it started as a niche pay-per-view draw in 1993, and now features fighters who have mainstream endorsement deals with major sports clothing brands, drinks, cars, watches and just about everything under the sun. But if White has a pebble in his shoe right now, it’s Paul, the court jester who keeps beating the drum when it comes to UFC fighter pay, or lack thereof. This pebble is also aggravating the UFC’s Achilles heel – adequate compensation for its moneymakers. The latest in a long list of call-outs from current and former fighters was Jared Cannonier declaring after beating Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 34 on August 21 that he was “broke”. The 37-year-old middleweight contender, who has 12 fights in the UFC under his belt, later clarified his post-match comments, stating “I would like to get paid like an elite-level athlete”. UFC: Zhang can count herself lucky but Rose rematch intrigues Cannonier, who has only been able to fight twice in the past two years because of injuries, showcases what happens to a UFC fighter if they’re not regularly inside the Octagon, and winning. He’d left his job with the Federal Aviation Administration to focus on fighting full-time, and one would think, if you are an established UFC fighter like him, money would not be hard to come by. Turns out having a family and owning a home is a tough financial situation for an MMA fighter, and the fact that Cannonier is not selling soft drinks on national television means his out-of-ring cash flow is not substantial enough to bridge that gap. Fighters have turned to all sorts of alternative revenue streams to make up for a lack of income from actual fighting, from Twitch streaming and Only Fans accounts to coaching MMA and of course, running a gym, or other full-time businesses on the side. Not surprised this part of the post-fight interview wasn’t clipped and shared on UFC socials. Again, an appalling look for the promotion after record profits declared, headliner Jared Cannonier says he’s ‘broke’ #UFCVegas34 pic.twitter.com/IUhodeqxvO — Niall McGrath (@niallmcgrath4) August 22, 2021 This should be White’s problem, and if Paul can get mileage out of the issue for months on end, you know something is not right with your organisation. In the build-up to the fight Woodley fight, Paul delivered a perfectly-timed one liner in response to his opponent’s “four time world champ” status, quipping “you can’t pay rent with those belts”. And then he went out and beat him. Paul is right, and White needs to realise this an issue he can’t just ignore any more. The error in the detractor’s arguments is that the UFC should have a split somewhere around the same vein as the big four American sports leagues – Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. Studies show it’s roughly a 50/50 split between players and owners of their respective teams, whereas the UFC is well under 20 per cent on average for fighters. It’s important to note the UFC is a company, not a league, and its structure is nowhere near similar to any of the other big four. Fighters do not have a regular season, or playoffs, there is no sharing of substantial merchandising sales or season tickets, and most fighters only get a few fights inside the Octagon, on average, before their UFC careers are over. But what this shouldn’t stop White from doing is creating one of the most robust medical and pension plans for UFC fighters, one they can opt into for life even if they only fight in the Octagon once. White should make it his priority to take care of anyone that works, or worked, for him. Treating his fighters like freelance contractors simply keeps the money upstairs in the corporate office, and means fighters like Cannonier will continue to cry foul. White has hinted he’s working on a long-term medical plan for fighters, but we have yet to see anything materialise. This is a step in the right direction, and the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit is another issue the UFC needs to address when it comes to its monopolistic tactics. Every other major sporting league has the same issues, the NFL’s concussion conundrum one that has cast a cloud over the league for years. But, according to multiple reports, the average NFL players makes well over US$1 million for one season. Of course, White could wait until the UFC fighters finally have had enough and create a union, and then he will get drowned in collective bargaining agreements on a regular basis, ripping his proverbial hair out as lawyers hammer him in endless contract negotiations where he has to make substantial concessions. Or he could reach into the UFC’s multibillion dollar piggy bank and start dishing out more cash to the people who actually bring revenue into the company. Time will tell if White and company can fix this Achilles heel, or if Paul and the rest of the UFC’s detractors get a drum to beat for years that drowns out MMA from banging on the door of mainstream sporting success.