‘Dana White’s Contender Series’: Are ‘Instant Contracts’ the Future of the UFC?

While the UFC is one of the most popular organizations in the world, it’s quite different from other sports organizations like the NBA or NFL. These differences cause a large pay dispute involving some of the UFC’s top talent, but the organization may have an answer for that. Let’s look at Dana White’s Contender Series and how instant contracts may affect fighter pay.

What is ‘Dana White’s Contender Series’ about?

Unlike the UFC’s other TV show, The Ultimate FighterDana White’s Contender Series, often abbreviated as DWCS, is less of a reality show and more of a small fight night. The premise behind DWCS is simple, it’s supposed to be a handful of fights between up-and-coming fighters. The winners could either earn a contract to fight in the UFC or they could get another chance to fight in the DWCS

Due to that, DWCS solves two issues the UFC always has: the need for new fighters and the need to provide content for its fans. Unlike The Ultimate Fighter, DWCS is a no-frills show featuring people fighting without much of the reality TV aspects of The Ultimate Fighter. As a result, DWCS is relatively cheap to produce and has a strong viewership.

How the show solves the UFC’s scouting issue

Natan Levy wins Dana White's Contender Series
Natan Levy reacts after his victory during Dana White’s Contender Series | Chris Unger/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC

And of course, the UFC always needs new fighters. Fighters often retire or get cut from the UFC, so finding new blood to join the UFC is a constant task. It’s typically a tough process to get in the UFC, but getting into the DWCS is much easier. Furthermore, after getting a fight in DWCS, it becomes even easier for those rising stars to join the UFC.

On top of that, unlike the NBA or the NFL, the UFC is not necessarily the only serious option for high-level fighters. Fighters can and do join other major MMA promotions, such as Bellator or ONE FC, though obviously, the UFC is the largest and most popular MMA promotion.

Due to that, there’s a lot of competition for new talent in MMA. It’s not uncommon for other organizations to land rising stars before the UFC gets its hands on them. This has become an issue. With DWCS though, the UFC can sign those fighters before they get a chance to explore other options, and that could boost the UFC’s talent pool in the future. 

Is this a good or bad thing for the UFC?


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That said, there are some issues with these instant contracts. Namely, since these fighters aren’t big-name fighters, the UFC isn’t necessarily paying them a lot of money. Obviously, it’s a great opportunity for those fighters to fight in the UFC, but it comes at a cost. 

The UFC’s pay dispute with its top fighters has already resulted in many leaving for greener pastures. The most notable example of this was Demetrious Johnson, who was once one of the most dominant champs in the UFC. He left the UFC for ONE FC, and he won’t be the last top UFC fighter to explore other options. 

While those fighters all leave for one reason or another, one of the more common reasons has to do with their pay. The UFC could’ve always paid them more so that they’d stick around, but that evidently didn’t happen. As a result, with fewer fighters in the UFC, the UFC can hire more fighters. And that’s where those relatively inexpensive DWCS contracts come in.

Ultimately, these instant contracts are bringing new blood into the UFC, but likely at the cost of high-level fighters moving onto other organizations. Whether this will be a good or bad thing for the UFC remains to be seen.