- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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TORONTO -- The craze from a blockbuster boxing event between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez last weekend in Las Vegas has followed the UFC north.
UFC president Dana White and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who defends his title against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 on Saturday, were asked repeatedly about Mayweather at a media function on Thursday.
Specifically, questions zeroed in on Mayweather’s much-talked about $41.5 million guarantee for the fight and Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer’s comments regarding the pay-per-view breaking buy records set in 2007.
White, who attended the fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, said he was flattered the company he’s helped run since 2001 would draw comparisons to boxing, a sport with a much longer history.
“I’m honored we’re always looked at like, ‘Why aren’t you paying people $41 million,’” White said. “’Why aren’t you doing 2.7 million [PPV] buys?’
“What people have to realize, we just started making money in 2007. Do people understand that? This sport is still so young. We’re not even sanctioned in New York, we’ve just been on Fox [Network] for a couple years and we’re talking about doing a $41 million payday. It’s crazy.”
Jones, 26, one of the most marketable stars in the UFC, announced on Thursday he’d signed a sponsorship deal with Gatorade that would feature the brand on his fight shorts this weekend.
On Mayweather’s $41.5 million payday, which, White correctly pointed out, could ultimately become closer to $100 million when final PPV revenue comes in, Jones said he’s happy with his current pay scale but sees room for improvement.
“I’m not even close to that, but I’m grateful,” said Jones, after refusing to reveal his exact compensation for the bout. “It’s nowhere near Floyd Mayweather, but I don’t judge my happiness over somebody else’s.
“I’m really happy with what I get paid. It’s really not on the scale of other professional athletes, but there are a lot of athletes that don’t get paid as much as [UFC fighters]. I know Dana White knows that some of the fighters could be upgraded, especially his top-level guys, but maybe we’ll move in that direction.”
The largest buy-rate ever for a UFC event was reported at 1.6 million, for the landmark UFC 100 card that took place in July 2009. When asked if he thought a UFC event could one day score a buy rate near 2.7 million, White said he hopes so.
“Thirteen years ago, people were asking me, ‘Will there ever be a day UFC will get back on PPV?’” White said. “‘Will there ever be a day UFC is on free TV? Will there ever be a day you’ll be doing things in different countries?’ Here we are now so, yes, I like to believe we will.”
White chickened out on Mayweather wager
Ever since it was announced Mayweather was fighting Alvarez on Sept. 14, White was adamant it would result in yet another decision victory for Mayweather.
He mentioned on several occasions his prediction Mayweather would, “Box Canelo’s ears off.”
White says fans pressed him to put his money where his mouth was during a recent online chat, but admitted that ultimately, he had no action on the undefeated boxer.
“I watched all the bull---- leading up to it and I chickened out, so I didn’t bet anything,” White said. “[UFC co-owner] Lorenzo [Fertitta] did really well, though.”
Whether UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is healthy or not come 2014, the promotion is finished with its “interim” tag at 135 pounds.
Cruz (19-1) hasn’t fought since October 2011 due to several knee operations. The UFC has been unwilling to strip him of the belt, despite the success of interim champion Renan Barao (30-1), who seeks his second defense of the title against Eddie Wineland on Saturday.
White said he’s hoping Cruz could be ready to compete sometime near January. If he’s unable to go, the promotion will make Saturday’s winner the official title-holder.
“If he can’t fight by the beginning of the year, we’ve got to the pull the trigger,” White said.
“It’s been two years. A lot of people think we’re crazy for holding up the title this long, but it’s a tough thing to do to take a title away from somebody. It’s hard to do.”
White has no concern BJ Penn will make 145 pounds
Not too many were surprised when it was announced earlier this week a comeback was in store for former lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn.
The surprise came when it was announced whom he would be fighting and at what weight.
Penn has agreed to coach on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series opposite familiar opponent Frankie Edgar. The two will then square off for a third time -- Edgar won the previous two -- at 145 pounds.
Penn (16-9-2) has fallen to 1-4-1 in his past six fights, four of which took place at 170 pounds. A cut now, after nearly a year off from the cage, down to featherweight has left some scratching heads.
“No,” White said, when asked if he had any worries Penn would miss weight. “He said he wants to do it. He says he’ll do it. It’s up to him now.”
White was then asked if the fight would be a situation where a loss could likely mean the end of Penn’s career in the UFC, to which he responded, “Yeah.”