Transcript of Tim Kennedy interview

On Tuesday we published a report of comments made by UFC fighter Tim Kennedy on the subject of fighter pay. These comments were part of an interview conducted by Callum Leslie for the GrappleTalk podcast which will be released tomorrow evening. Today, Tim Kennedy has released a retraction of his comments and claims that his remarks “have been taken out of context.” In the interest of transparency, we have therefore decided to publish below a transcript of the relevant portion of the interview ahead of its release tomorrow. All comments in the report were taken from this portion of the interview. Listen to the entire interview here.

Callum: I’m not sure how well known it is that obviously you do serve in the US army while you are still fighting professionally. Why do you choose to do both at the same time?

Tim: I love being part of the biggest baddest fighting force on the planet, and I’m not talking about the UFC, I’m talking about the army, being surrounded by 11 other special forces guys, ODA a 12 man team, it’s pretty sweet. There’s really nothing that that team can’t do. It’s surreal to be surrounded by a bunch of guys that are way over educated and way more dangerous than what they get paid for. It’s humbling and it’s a blast.

Callum: Are you going to be deployed anytime in the future, have you got anything coming up on that front?

Tim: Uh, no nothing I can really talk about. I have to do some stuff this year but I’m fighting July 6th, that’s the next thing I have to do.

Callum: We spoke to Stipe Miocic on the last show, who is another fighter who does another job while being a fighter, he’s a fireman, do you think that that stands you out from other fighters, do you think other fighters maybe think of you differently because you’re someone who isn’t a full time 100% commited to fighting? Do you think people doubt your commitment in any way?

Tim: I dunno, I’m 100% commited to fighting, I think it’s pathetic that so many fighters, you know I’m like one of the top 3% paid guys in the whole entire sport, and y’know, it would be slim pickings to survive off what I make in fighting. I think it’s just the nature of the beast and I think a lot of guys would second what I’m saying. Fighter pay is always the hot topic of conversation especially once post fight pay purses come out people are like “holy cow, that guy made $60,000? Woah he’s so rich,” I’m like “$60,000? Well you pay 35% taxes on that and then you pay 50% between your coaches, your manager, training expenses, your medical, your nutrition. That $60,000 is really like ten or twelve once everything is said and done. So, y’know, good luck surviving, let’s say you fight three times a year on $36,000 a year that’s insane. So, yeah, it’s good to have another job because the UFC doesn’t pay very well.

Callum: Well that’s something that John Cholish, who’s a guy that has just retired, he talked about that and how by the time he paid out to bring his cornermen with him and for his camp and everything like that he was making a loss every time he was fighting. Do you think, some people have talked about a fighter’s union, things like that, do you think there’s any way for fighters to improve their pay or is just something we have to accept as a reality of the sport?

Tim: No, anybody who accepts this as a reality of the sport is sad and pathetic. I hope this isn’t the reality of the sport, if it is I should probably go do something else like empty trash cans, I’d make more money than I do now. So, I dunno. Hopefully it will change, I just don’t know when or how.

Callum: What can you do as a fighter to improve the situation, both for yourself and others?

Tim: I think it has to be a balance of both, I see a lot of people write articles, talking about – I’ll use a specific one for instance Bleacher Report – they wrote an article like “who’s on the hot seat to get cut in this next UFC”, and the first thing they always bring up is a fighter’s salary. For instance Jake Shields in this last fight, they’re like “this guy hasn’t had a spectacular record since he’s come to the UFC, and he’s like super freaking expensive, he’s making like $150,000 for his total purse,” perpetuating that type of propaganda that’s pushed from the promotion saying this is- having journalists say that fighters are making too much money and they’re on the hot seat to get cut, that’s just cruel. That’s journalists saying “these guys should get cut because this is how much they make.” Golly, that’s horrible.

Callum: Well that was something that became a topic around Jon Fitch when he recently left the UFC, Dana White getting quite upset at Jon Fitch’s comments about how he was treated, and he made it all about money and how much money Jon Fitch had made in bonuses and things like that. It’s not something that, the numbers and information we’re not privy to, but is it something that makes a big difference? Or to people like yourself who aren’t at that very top is that not making a difference, is that a non-factor in how much money you’re making?

Tim: Jon Fitch, even with all the discretionary bonuses, that is not a lot of money. You start splitting that between entire fight teams and coaches, that’s chump change. You’re going to make more money being a firefighter or a cop, those guys don’t get punched in the head for a living. You could be a grocer at a local grocery store or a supermarket and you would make as much money as most of us are making. So, fighter union, a lot of people bring that up, but that’s a touchy thing around the UFC. I don’t know what the answer is but something has to change. There are guys who are barely getting by and we have short careers. It’s a scary thing, orthopaedically it’s dangerous how quickly we can get injured in this sport and your career could be over with one damaged knee or one bad cut or one bad punch that hurts your eye. Something needs to change, what that is whether it’s a fighter’s union or like the NFL doing profit sharing or percentages, those are all possibilities, but we’ll see where it goes, but something has to change.

Callum: If you don’t mind me asking, obviously we’ll see the purses after the show has happened, but what is the money that you stand to make up front, and how much of that will you actually take home at the end of the day once you’ve paid all your expenses and for your camp and everything like that?

Tim: I think I’m at $55k or $60k is my show purse, and then I have like a ten, fifteen thousand win bonus. So let’s just say seventy total. And of that seventy, once I – I was going to do a tweet actually later, next week, about what my total is I’m going to make – I’ll probably pocket of that sevety, twenty.

Callum: That’s not a lot of money at the end of the day.

Tim: No, it’s not, for a three month fight camp. It’s not a lot of money at all. And I’m going to fight what two maybe three times this year? That’s pre-tax. And at the end of the year I have to pay taxes, not the $20k that I’m pocketing, I’m paying taxes on the $70k it’ll be deductions of course, but it’s tough.

Callum: That’s really interesting, obviously this is something that’s going to rumble on and on I feel, and obviously more people like yourself coming out and talking about it, people like John Cholish, do you think that put’s the pressure on Dana White to up fighter pay and the UFC to do that or do you think that, a lot of people talk about in other things for example professional wrestling, people talk about how people who ask for more money they just don’t get booked everywhere, and you’ll find guys, there are always guys who will work for cheaper. Do you think that’s a danger, or do you think this is something where fighters can really exert pressure?

Tim: A little it of both. I think it definitely goes with that, there’s always going to be guys that will step in and fight for less. Are they going to be the talent that’s in there right now? Definitely not. Are they the experience, the credentials? No, but yeah, you can find anybody who’s going to go out there and say “yep I’ll get punched in the head for X number of dollars.” And that’s sad.