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‘Pay me as a main event fighter’: UFC star Costa withdraws from upcoming headline bout as fighter pay debate intensifies

Former UFC title challenger Paulo Costa has announced he won't fight Jake Cannonier in August, saying that YouTubers like Jake and Logan Paul have exposed the vast pay disparity between boxing and the UFC.

Costa, the world's second-ranked middleweight, had been expected to take on fellow powerhouse Cannonier in a late summer tussle with title implications at the summit of the 185lb division, but has written on social media that he now won't be competing in the fight. 

The disgruntled Brazilian took to Twitter late on Friday to say that the UFC would have to "pay me as a main event fighter to have fighting (sic) in main events."

He added: "YouTubers are showing all disgrace on this business."

He also suggested that the UFC had formally announced the fight despite him not having signed his bout agreement.

"Just to be clear. I never signed or locked up that contract. Why UFC announced this fight if didn’t signed? My question too," he wrote.

Costa's declaration is sure to cause consternation in the UFC's Las Vegas headquarters amid an intensifying debate about the issue of fighter pay within mixed martial arts – and, more specifically, the UFC.

The 30-year-old's outspoken missive likely references the Paul brothers, the pair of YouTube pranksters who seem to have successfully established themselves as pay-per-view commodities within boxing. 

Logan Paul, the winless boxer and elder of the two brothers, is set to fight Floyd Mayweather late on Sunday in a fight that will significantly swell his net worth, while it was confirmed during the week that Jake Paul will box former UFC champ Tyron Woodley in August in a fight which will net the former welterweight titleholder a career-high payday. 

Dana White, the UFC president ever adept at winning staring contests with his roster of independent contractors, is predictably not blinking when confronted with these issues, even as the highly-anticipated heavyweight fight between Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou – one of the biggest possible in today's MMA landscape – crumbles before our eyes. 

Jake Paul, who also handed ex-UFC fighter Ben Askren his highest career purse for his one-round loss to the YouTuber earlier this year, has been a vocal critic of White's pay structure and has become an unlikely figure in the ongoing debate.

Warning: video contains swearing

"There’s a movement, moving forward, that is going to show that fighters should be getting paid more," said Paul in a video uploaded to social media by ex-UFC fighter Jimi Manuwa this week. 

"It’s unfair. The UFC fighters don’t have fair pay. Out of all the sports, the percentage that the owners get versus the athlete, they’re the lowest.

Francis Ngannou versus Jon Jones, that fight should happen. Dana White, pay them the $10 million. He’s taking their money. They’re the ones making the content. They’re the ones getting in the ring, risking their life.

"Chris Weidman goes in, snaps his leg in half,” Paul added. "What’s that look like? He might never be able to fight again and provide food for his family.

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"These fighters are risking their lives. You can quite literally die in the ring and they need to be compensated more. I’m a big proponent of that movement and being in control.

"So f*ck that sh*t. F*ck Dana White."

White, though, has resisted any significant debate about increasing fighter pay and breaking the company's accepted pay structures to get big fights over the line. But logic dictates there might come a tipping point which could swing the pendulum out of his control.

And that can only come if fighters like Jones and Costa refuse to relent in their campaign for a bigger slice of the pie.

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