PAY ME!!! : Low Payout to Fighters

Based on salaries disclosed to the NSAC the UFC will have paid out $1,500,000 that includes performance of the night bonuses. So why is the payout to fighters purses so low? It is reported that the UFC sold in excess of 800,000 ppv’s for UFC 182. And that is just one event.

So based on those numbers, 4% of the total revenue went to the fighters, that number is probably a little higher as the main event fighters get points on the PPV buys, but that isn’t who this is about.  Shockingly, if you take out Jon Jones’ $500,000 only 2.6% of the revenue went to the fighters.

I know there is a lot more involved in how UFC pay works, but lets compare that to say… The NFL, the CBA between the league and the players says that the players make ~48%, this includes TV deals and merchandising ect.

This isn’t even in the same realm of reality. Football players much like Fighters have a limited time they can compete, and if people put enough time into making it to the UFC, they should be paid accordingly, especially if the organization can afford it. I believe the UFC can. The 8-8 plan that the UFC uses for new fighters isn’t even a livable wage, if they fight 3x a year that’s only $48,000 a year, descent money for a normal job, but if you can only work for 10 years definitely not.

I have seen a little feedback on this, and there is a lot involved.  Now this ONLY applies to the TOP LEVEL promotions i.e. the UFC and Bellator.  Keep in mind these promotions make a ton more money on TV deals, merchandising, and PPV buys than they make on ticket sales.  Most local promotions rely entirely on ticket sales for income, and are charging at the most $150 a ticket for cageside seats, the same seats for UFC 189 would cost you thousands if not tens of thousands.

Lets go back to a comparison with another sport – Baseball.  So a baseball team has several teams underneath it, you have the Bigs or MLB, AAA, AA, A teams.  All the lower level teams are supported by the big dog up top, or the MLB team. Lets translate this to to the world of MMA, you would have the major promotions like The UFC and Bellator, then below them would be the promotions such as RFA and Legacy that are more feeder leagues but have the value of television deals ect. Below them would be your Pro-Am promotions that typically don’t have TV deals and are a good place for lower level pros to get started. Then below them would be your Amateur promotions.  I understand this doesn’t translate entirely as The UFC and Bellator aren’t going to support any of these other promotions, but there is a pecking order, and much like baseball when you move from one league to the other you would expect a pay increase.

Obviously, these teams bring in more money because they have bigger names, bigger names equals more fans and TV deals ect.  Why are we talking about all of this? Well pay is a consequence of scales when you are getting started you have to prove yourself. You may have to work a side job to pay bills so you can train to make it to the next level. With each level comes more demand for your time.  But I will say that if you are at the top level, you should make enough to live and not have to work on the side.  I talked to a fighter once and he told me something that really hit home.  He told me something along the lines of

I moved away from taking fighting seriously when I had a Pro Fighter working on my construction crew, who was at the top level. He said he had to work a full time job to make ends meet. That is ridiculous!

So to bring this back home, for the next evolution of this sport to happen, fighters need to fight to get paid a reasonable salary.  What is a reasonable salary at the top level? That is not for me to judge, but if we assume that the average earning potential for a professional individual is $50,000 a year for 40 years, or 2 million,  then an average professional fighter should be attempting to make about that same amount in 10-15 years somewhere around $250,000 a year in their prime. Who knows how sponsorship will factor in the future. Keep in mind, that 250K number isn’t just from promotions, although with the Reebok deal at the UFC it could very well end up being.

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