Controversy: UFC & Reebok Payout Tier

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Starting in July the UFC will implement a payout tier. So what is the reaction of the fighters? According to social media and conversations MMA Futures has had with fighters across the country, it is overwhelmingly negative. This is putting unnecessary stress onto an already high pressure career path. Fighters struggle to make ends meet as it is in the lower ranks. Now, when they get to the pinnacle of the sport, they are limited by a hierarchy of earning potential based their value to one sponsor. It just seems unfair.

Joanna Jędrzejczyk  $40k
Joanna Jędrzejczyk $40k

The hierachical tiers are tenure-based. What does that really mean? What it means to the fighters is, on July 11 with UFC 189 in Las Vegas, the break down is as follows: Fighters with 1-5 bouts receive $2,500 per fight; 6-10 bouts get $5,000; 11-15 bouts get $10,000; 16-20 bouts get $15,000; and more than 21 bouts get $20,000. Additionally, title challengers receive $30,000, and champions receive $40,000.

Under the Reebok deal Joanna Jędrzejczyk will make $40k when she fights in June. If she loses that fight, she’ll make $2.5k for her next bout. Likewise, if Chris Weidman and TJ Dillashaw lose their belts (and don’t get immediate rematches) they will be knocked down to $5k. UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub claims he’s made at least six figures in sponsorship dollars for each of his past six UFC fights. With a total of 12 octagon appearances to his name, Schaub now stands to make just $10,000 for his next fight under the terms of the Reebok deal.

“It’s the lowest I’ve ever made on sponsorship money, the Travis Browne fight. Ever, ever in my 13-fight career. It’s crazy, right?… I think the top guys might benefit… I think it helps the very top guys. From what I know, I don’t know all the facts. So the top 5 guys, the champ, it’s going to help, and the guys in the middle, I don’t think it’s going to help. But it helps the new guys too, who don’t get sponsors.”  –   Brenden Schaub

These are the kinds of differences in pay scale that cause strikes. You just don’t want to see your workforce complaining and talking about the difference in the amount of pay that they’re getting. It is just no good for business. It just seems very USSR-like to limit a champion to 40k. A manager at Jiffy Lube makes more than that and he doesn’t get hit in the face (usually). The best guys in the world only get 40 grand? That just does not seem like enough.

Only time will tell if the fighter’s objections and needs will be taken into consideration. Can the fighters force the UFC to alter the structure? Most of the fighters that we follow on social media are very much opposed to the deal. So what is the solution? At this point no one can speculate as to what Dana White and the UFC plan to do. It is just a shame when fighters have to suffer to benefit a high profile sponsor.