MMA Ratings Podcast

August 18, 2010

Should the UFC Pay Their Fighters More? a.k.a. The Great Salary Debate - Do You Care?

More Articles by Kevin Wright

OK guys, me and Worby had a debate a while back about fighter salaries, I don’t think he looks at it in a rational point of view and I’m not trying to sway it, I just wanna state the facts and try to put it into perspective. I for the record could care less what grown men who choose what profession they enter make as far as a salary goes, it’s not my business nor does it have any affect on my life! Also, what the UFC makes in comparison is irrelevant, they take all financial risk, have 100+ non fighter employees to pay and have a 7 day a week job at promoting their company, not to mention, companies go into business to make money.

Lets say a fighter signs a contract to get 10k to show and 10k to win. If he wins 3 fights in a year that's 60k in salary (and probably earns a new, higher contract). Now assume he makes 40k (I believe it’s a lot higher) for sponsors. Fighter X has just had a 100k dollar year. When tax time comes, he can write off training, coaching and everything right down to tape. If he had a KO or Submission, he may have earned a bonus. Like I said, he definitely just earned a better contract too.

Now since you guys like to compare MMA to boxing, lets put it in real terms. Not including Pac Man, De La Hoya and Mayweather, pro boxers make significantly less. As a matter of fact, in my research, I learned that 90% of pro boxers have other full time jobs to support themselves. The avg boxing salary is 10k a fight, but on the way up in the ranks is approx 100 per scheduled round. Now an undercard fighter on an HBO show may get 30k, but we are taking an avg here.

Lets get even more into this, teachers here in America teach and mold our children to be better people and obviously to succeed so they can go out into the world and be successful. I personally believe teachers to be one of the most important jobs in the world, do you know what the avg. teacher makes? Between 30-40k a year. So someone like Rich Franklin who is arguably (or was) one of the UFC’s stars is making about 10x as much as he was when he was a teacher. HMMM, kinda weird. Cops? Probably one of the other more important jobs in our country today, they risk their lives to keep us safe. The avg police salary is just over 49k per year.

Comparing UFC pay to that of the “big 3″ in pro sports is kinda dumb, but again it’s all relative. Yes, your superstars are making 10″s of millions of dollars (as the superstars in the UFC are making good coin), but your avg players are making league minimum or significantly less than your “greats.” Not to mention, even the greats are making the majority of their money in sponsorships. Tiger woods is a billionaire yet his career golf earnings is just over 105 million dollars. As much as you guys that are vocal about fighter pay hate to mention sponsors, MMA fighters have the opportunity to get money from sponsors, I know I don’t have that option! The company I work for made 14 billion dollars last year, why wasn’t I paid more? Because companies are in business to make money.

Bottom line is this, do I think there should be a minimum salary in the UFC, say 20k/20k? Of course. Do I really care though? not really, all these fighters are grown men who chose to fight for a living. I’ll go one step further, if I could make 100k a year (and again, I think my #’s are low) by training 5 or 6 days a week and fighting 3 or 4 times a year, sign me up. If you told me that if I did well I’d make more, I’d train harder and work at being the best! There are a lot more important people all over the world making a hell of a lot less, doing a hell of a lot more!

Matt Hughes and Anderson Silva both made 200k at UFC 117, but Chael Sonnen only made 35k. Do I believe Sonnen only made 35k? No, I’m willing to bet he made over a 100k just for being the only guy hyping the fight. Two guys on the card made 6k. They also got to fight in the UFC, and I’m willing to bet their sponsors paid them more than if they were fighting for KOTC for instance. The exposure alone, fighting in the top MMA organization in the world, allows these guys more sponsors and more money. Point is, if you are a mixed martial artist, your goal is (or should be) to fight in the UFC or Strikeforce. If you do well, the money will come. Ryan Couture admittedly said he probably shouldn’t have been on the main card for the Strikeforce challengers this past weekend, and he also probably made more money than any other rookie made in their first MMA fight. He is one of the few lucky ones that had a door opened for him due to his name. Bottom line is, if you choose a profession, and love what you do, what you make is your business. If you sign a contract for a certain amount of money, honor the contract and work harder to EARN a better contract!

Kevin Wright writes for Monday Morning Black Belt.

3 comments:

  1. Don't forget that another reason for higher pay for MMA fighters is that, unlike school teachers, cops, office workers, company executives and the like, an MMA fighter's time as an MMA fighter is short-lived at best, for a couple of reasons.

    A fighter might make $35k for a fight, another $35k in bonuses, etc., and get to write off their training and travel expenses, but lose 3 times and they're out. Add the potential of loss of fighting in the cage due to injuries, mandatory retirement due to injuries; lack of cohesive fights due to lack of competition; aging out, etc. all mean MMA fighters don't have a long time in the cage. Then what? I mean, this is physical work, and one can only fight hard for so many years.

    And while their boxing counterparts who are also stepping up the ladder make only $10k per fight, what about the big guys who make a couple of million or more in a fight night? GSP, Anderson Silva, etc. don't make that kind of money, but their skills in MMA are comparable, and they're called the pound4pound best MMA fighters on the plant - shouldn't they be making a million dollars per fight, like their boxing counterparts? Especially given the fact that they're not only headlining the card, but bringing in more viewers to the event in which they are participating?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think cops also have limited careers.

    I don't think anyone would disagree that it would be nice if fighters made more money. Hey while we're at it, let's give more money to everyone. But I think the point of the article, which agree with completely, is that this is a business and companies are here to make money. That means increasing product and reducing expenses. Companies like UFC must pay fighters enough that their packages are competitive, but would be ill advised to pay more.

    And in boxing the top fighters are the company. Comparing their gross revenue to MMA fighters is apples and oranges. A better comparison is a top boxer's gross revenue to UFC's gross revenue. Both have similar expenses (fighters, venue, marketing, etc.) but UFC's is probably greater as they are looking to expand their business in ways that you do not see in boxing. (probably a good article in their)

    Good to hear from you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Don't forget that another reason for higher pay for MMA fighters is that, unlike school teachers, cops, office workers, company executives and the like, an MMA fighter's time as an MMA fighter is short-lived at best, for a couple of reasons.

    A fighter might make $35k for a fight, another $35k in bonuses, etc., and get to write off their training and travel expenses, but lose 3 times and they're out. Add the potential of loss of fighting in the cage due to injuries, mandatory retirement due to injuries; lack of cohesive fights due to lack of competition; aging out, etc. all mean MMA fighters don't have a long time in the cage. Then what? I mean, this is physical work, and one can only fight hard for so many years.

    And while their boxing counterparts who are also stepping up the ladder make only $10k per fight, what about the big guys who make a couple of million or more in a fight night? GSP, Anderson Silva, etc. don't make that kind of money, but their skills in MMA are comparable, and they're called the pound4pound best MMA fighters on the plant - shouldn't they be making a million dollars per fight, like their boxing counterparts? Especially given the fact that they're not only headlining the card, but bringing in more viewers to the event in which they are participating?

    ReplyDelete

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