Removing Fight Bonuses: Is It The Right Decision?

When Dana White recently announced that fighter bonuses may be removed to free up more funds for entry level fighters I didn’t know whether to applaud or condemn the idea. 

There is always a lot of satisfaction in seeing guys being awarded these bonuses for amazing performances, but at the same time there can also be disappointment in the change rooms for fighters that believed their performance, submission or KO was more deserving of the award.

To remove these discretionary bonuses after being engrained in UFC culture for so long would be like adjusting to Dana White wearing a new hair piece. I’ve come to love watching the fights and debating with drunken bar patrons who deserves the KO, Submission and FOTN bonus.

If three discretionary bonuses of $50,000 each are awarded at every event then this would free up $200,000 including the double pay out for FOTN.  At UFC 162 there are 22 fighters competing. Ten of those fighters are on the main card, twelve fighters are on the prelims. If the bonuses were allocated to the twelve preliminary fighters outside the main card, each fighter could potentially receive an additional $16,500 on top of their existing fight purse.  

Would a fighter prefer a guaranteed $16,500 increase in every fight or prefer competing with 21 other fighters over 3 bonuses. This is an interesting proposition the UFC and fighters will have to negotiate their way through.

There are only 28 fighters within the UFC that have secured five or more bonuses during their career. Rampage Jackson, BJ Penn, Josh Koscheck, & Kenny Florian have all received 5 bonuses each during their career. The most bonuses however were awarded to Joe Lauzon and Anderson Silva who have both received 12 bonuses during their career. Sadly the majority of fighters will never receive these bonuses.

If the bonus system is removed (assuming this is only option on the table) then the majority of fighters will be a lot better off financially in the long run. A fighter being paid an additional $16,500 each fight would receive $49,500 extra per year if they fought three times. 

I question whether the majority of fighter bonuses awarded to guys like Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and others would be better served supporting the upcoming fighters considering they are receiving millions to fight through PPV. Why provide a $50,000 bonus to a guy that is already receiving millions in PPV revenue?

Whether the UFC remove the bonus system or not remains to be seen. I am often at odds with the assertion that the UFC built this sport, because it undermines and provides little credit to the professional athletes that compete and train for so many years. Without the athletes, $2 billion dollars worth of wealth would not be sitting in Dana White’s and the Fertita’s bank account.  Lets hope they get it right and give the athletes what they deserve otherwise Dana White may end up being remembered as the Don King of MMA.


31 Comments

  1. Profile photo of N.C.

    N.C.

    July 2, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    ok this is crazy, $50,000 was already reduced.

    With rating and sponsorships. We wanted UFC to give MORE money. Not pulling from one bucket to put it into another so they can still buy their 25th ferrari.

    They could increase the MMAfest gate from 25 bucks to 27 bucks and with 10's of thousands of attendee's over 3 days. They would make back that $150,000 with just a 2 dollar increase. (given it all went to the fighters).

    Forget the fact most UFC events it's hundreds for just the nose bleeds on PPV's.

    Makes no sense they would struggle to free up $150,000.

    • Profile photo of dropkickmurphy

      dropkickmurphy

      July 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      I tried to sharp you twice. It is easy to adjust their margins to accommodate fair pay. I make more money a year than any low level fighter and I do not generate near the revenue as being 1/24 part of a UFC card.

      • Profile photo of enjoylife321

        enjoylife321

        July 2, 2013 at 7:25 pm

        Nice comment DKM…..good analogy

      • Profile photo of N.C.

        N.C.

        July 2, 2013 at 9:04 pm

        If they were to say, we're gonna increase your ticket price by 5 dollars. But 100% will go to the lower card fighters to help give them a raise.

        I don't think anybody would have a problem with that. Especially considering tickets are $350 for the upper levels alone!!!

        I can understand if fans demanded a million to be spread out among the fighters and them flinching. But $150,000?!

  2. Profile photo of Evan Holober

    Evan Holober

    July 2, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    This is just Dana trying to stray the argument away from revenue/profit sharing again. He has always claimed that for fighters to get more money, a set of the fighters would have to take less (ex: He used to claim that fighters like GSP and SIlva would have to get less for undercarders to earn more). He never wants to even entertain the conversation of Zuffa getting less of the profit. Which makes sense, he's a company president. Its on the fighters to push that agenda forward.

  3. Profile photo of borealis1972

    borealis1972

    July 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Bonuses are a great incentive for UFC fighters to deliver the best performances and earn more money–thus improving their living conditions. To remove these bonuses under the "spurious" pretext of funding entry-level fighters is ridiculous at best, misleading at worst. The UFC is invading new markets, making more PPV sales, contracting with national TV stations, advertizing for bigger companies, creating and selling new clothing and gear products. Why then are some its entry-level and even some veteran fighters still earning wretched SALARIES not exceeding 6 grand…This is one reason we should encourage and promote –as Randy Couture and Greg Jackson did–other organizations like Bellator to end Zuffa's monopoly over the sport…If the UFC is the best MMA brand, they should pay better salaries than Walmart does…

    • Profile photo of Entity

      Entity

      July 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      I cant disagree, well thought out statement. I have noticed, that fans are definitely on one side of the fence or the other. I can see both points. It's become a messy topic now. Kennedy is now going to suffer a lot more from this escalation.

    • Profile photo of thexperience1

      thexperience1

      July 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Sure the UFC is growing and gaining revenue… but they're also making high risk investments to help the sport grow. In order to do this and be able to keep doing this and break into new markets, MONEY is needed. Lots of it… So yes, they're growing and making more money but the EXPENSES grow along with it! It's an important detail that most are forgetting. Not to mention fighters pay has been steadily increasing. Maybe not as much and as fast as they would like but when it comes to feeding your family and paying your bills you're always gonna have something to complain. Everyone wants MORE…. no matter what field your work in. Right now the UFC set a standard with fighters pay, which is GOOD for MMA standards. As the sport grows, the salaries will grow with it, as they have for the past 10 years.

      • Profile photo of enjoylife321

        enjoylife321

        July 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

        @experience…. Everything you say is relevant..However, I guess the impression many people get is that the current status of UFC fighters is less of a "PARTNERSHIP" between promotor and Athlete and more of a boss vs employee type relationship. Athletes are saying we are just as much part of this success story as you.

        Dana White has sold fans a story that the UFC were 40 million dollars in the red before they turned it around…..Lets interpret that for a minute.

        The UFC invested money into a sport that they really did not know how to operate efficiently in the very beginning. They stumbled and were able to continue due to a billionaires bank budget and hit gold by chance through the ultimate fighter series…

        Whether the business went from zero to hero from day 1 or after three years is really irrelevant to fighter pay today. The UFC are fixated on the history of the company as if the fighters owe something to them based on some sacrifice were organs were donated…

        To achieve everything required athletes, namely forrest and stefan and a whole lot more…If the UFc went bust Lorenzo would have went back to being a billionaire..

        Noone is disputing Dana did not work hard. he probably worked 120 hours a week at times. But guess what, thousands of athletes have dedicated their lives to the sport in gyms getting busted beaten, going through surgery, doing interviews, promoting the ufc brand.

        the easiest way to settle it is for the UFC to open the books. they don't want to do that.

        For Dana to accumlate 200 million dollars in such a short amount of time is nothing short of incredible. We are talking about a UFC president that flies in a private jet like the president.

        The reality is fighters feel disrespected and its becoming an overwhelming problem and PR issue. Your company is only as good as your athletes.

        • Profile photo of thexperience1

          thexperience1

          July 2, 2013 at 2:47 pm

          Thats exactly what it is: boss vs employee… it's NOT a partnership, so it's unrealistic to expect them to split their profits with their "employees"… the fighters bonus however is giving the best performing fighters a piece out of that cake (they are not entitled to, so its a given…)

          I'm not disagreeing with most of what you're saying but
          to put it in perspective. In any other field… let's say
          Sales Account Managers… they pull in new business,
          from which millions of revenue could be generated.
          Some of them (not all) will get a bonus for their effort.
          From that account a companies revenue could triple
          within a year or two and the Account Manager would still
          have the same salary as agreed on when he signed his contract.
          No new accounts? No Bonus… just base salary… It is the exact same situation. At the end of the day it's a job. You're contract stipulates what is expected from you and what the amount is you'll get paid for that effort. They too are a huge part of building these companies but as long as they are not a "partner" they will never make the kind of money, we would consider "fair". Like i posted earlier… construction workers work their *** off… they are actually doing the hard work, while their employer closes another 100 million contract…. still they only make an average of 41k a year.

          At the end of the day it's the profession they chose. If they wanted an easy job, or a job that pays more, they could have chose another career path.

          You just can't forget the UFC is a business, like any other business..

          • Profile photo of enjoylife321

            enjoylife321

            July 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm

            @the experience……What the UFC fighters do is extroadinarily more difficult, more dangerous then any other profession on the planet. Imagine a cage door being locked behind you and another fighter is ready to rip your head off with millions of viewers tuning in all around the world watching your body get beaten and bruised.

            These guys are stars, professional athletes, gladiators. So why should they be remunerated or compared to an everyday employee?

            The ring girls who hold up a sign probably earn more than alot of these guys.

            The whole premise for more pay is based on the nature of the work more than anything else, the injuries, the layoff, the overheads as a contractor with gym and management fees.

          • Profile photo of thexperience1

            thexperience1

            July 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm

            Yes thats true…. but again.. its the profession they chose. Nobody is forcing them to doing it. Like nobody is forcing anyone else to pursue careers in fields they put their lives at risk on a daily base for a shitty salary…. If you're not happy with your job or salary, you're free to choose another career path…

          • Profile photo of thexperience1

            thexperience1

            July 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm

            and more dangerous then any other profession? thats a joke……
            what about offshore Oil riggers and War Correspondents and coal miners, firefighters (with their shitty **** salary)… I can make a list of at least 20 professiona of the top of my head that are far more dangerous. MMA fighters are in a relatively SAFE environment.. it's very unlikely for an MMA fighter to get killed… seriously how many times has a Professional MMA fighter died in the cage?

          • Profile photo of enjoylife321

            enjoylife321

            July 2, 2013 at 7:34 pm

            @experience……..I agree that it is voluntary, but what the low level fighters are being paid doesn't cut it for me and unfortunately they don't have much bargaining power to negotiate a better deal….Let me ask you this question….Do you think a guy who gets paid $8,000 to show is being paid well as an employee or contractor considering most guys will probably only be offered two fights a year?

          • Profile photo of thexperience1

            thexperience1

            July 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm

            It's like an entry level job… lots of labor.. shitty pay… you work hard to get promoted regularly and your salary grows. If you work hard and keep winning, you'll make a lot of money soon enough. Exciting fighters get booked more, get rewarded with bonuses and get to use the UFC's platform to become a household name, which gives them an opportunity to get sponsorship and endorsements.

            Like any other job if you're shitty at it, most likely you'll get fired or demoted. That just proves it is not for you and you need to do something else. The fighters have to invest in themselves to become better fighters, so they can WIN fight… the UFC is not liable for those expenses!

            If you want to be a lawyer, you need to invest a **** load of money in your education to become good enough at it so you can WIN cases. If your a lawyer and you don't win any cases. You won't get hired! It's the same principal.

            You hear fighters complain about how much their training camp costs etc. That is not the UFC's responsibility! If their camp does not have good enough trainers and training partners for the fighter to progress in his overall game. IT MIGHT BE TIME TO SWITCH CAMPS.. instead of having to hire all kinds of people to help you get ready for a fight (on top of having to pay their own "camp"). Fighters need to get smarter with their investments. It's like picking the right college to get the right education.

          • Profile photo of Janice Lane

            Janice Lane

            July 2, 2013 at 8:51 pm

            @experience Hmm.. never looked at it from that perspective but i have to agree to a certain extend.

          • Profile photo of thexperience1

            thexperience1

            July 2, 2013 at 8:48 pm

            And to answer your question… Yes, if you're a new fighter at entry level and you get 8000 to show, i would say that's enough. Win the fight, double your money… Work harder and get a bonus and you're lucky. Everybody gotta start somewhere. You can't step into the game and expect to make substantial amounts of money right away. You gotta work for it.. The UFC is offering them a platform to build their own "brand" (meaning themselves). They have to **** it up, take advantage of that opportunity and make the best out of it for themselves. Fight for it, literally….

          • Profile photo of enjoylife321

            enjoylife321

            July 2, 2013 at 11:07 pm

            Good job on the defence @theexperience…..Nice to see some challenges on the issue…all very good arguments….

          • Profile photo of Entity

            Entity

            July 2, 2013 at 11:25 pm

            Unless you're Chael and talk your way into fights ahead of the guys who work hard and pay their dues by great performances.
            Good thing T.J. is getting his shot.

      • Profile photo of chael4president1

        chael4president1

        July 3, 2013 at 11:26 pm

        Yes of course it is a Boss and Employee relationship. Just like most businesses. But like any business, the employees hold a certain value for what they do. Most workers in this country are underpaid considering how much money they really make for a company. The fighters do have the power to band together and demand more money. However they really do need everyone to participate, because the Belt Holders will probably not join the other fighters in protest.

        Fighters and the bosses should both shut up about who made the sport get where it is today. It would have happened anyway, no matter who owned the biggest MMA organization.

        Yes it's bosses and employees like any other business, but the UFC does need to fork over more money. Simply because these athletes are putting themselves through hell every day. Getting battered by eachother constantly, and that is their every day routine. Athletes in other sports get to throw around a ball usually. And the worst thing they deal with is working out.

        The UFC needs to make it so the lowest paid fighters are bringing home at least 70K per year after taxes. It would still be way less than other pro athletes. But it would make it not hurt as bad after you lose a fight. And then you see your measly little pay check that will be nearly gone after paying your corner and other expenses.

  4. Profile photo of highkick12

    highkick12

    July 2, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    The bonuses give incentive to try and finish for knockout and submission and to not be a boring fighter for fight of the night.
    I really hope they don't get rid of them.
    Could you imagine a whole card of fitch type fights with guys just grinding out wins for the extra 16,500…

  5. Profile photo of kungfurule

    kungfurule

    July 2, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    **** you Dana White you greedy douchebag.

  6. Profile photo of jmedno5891

    jmedno5891

    July 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    It kinda ***** to think the minimum a guy playing major league baseball gets is around 300k a year. The same thing I can see a bunch of kids playing at a park for fun (not at the same level but you catch my drift) yet we got fighters taking major health risks in comparison making 10-15k a fight with only 3 maybe 4 fights a year? The sport isn't at the level of baseball/basketball/football but these guys deserve a little more than that at least. Out of those 3 sports I would say football is the only one I actually think deserve to get payed as much as they do, since they can get some serious long term injuries.

  7. Profile photo of HolyGrimace666

    HolyGrimace666

    July 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    i think it should be in the "give a little, take a little" category. get rid of all the bonus' except fight of the night. now prospects and newcomers can get a little more and fighters can still chase a bonus if its a good enough fight.

  8. Profile photo of Kevin

    Kevin

    July 2, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    It will result in a fighters union and I believe it should.

  9. Profile photo of Akordas

    Akordas

    July 3, 2013 at 5:06 am

    You are idiots, this sport is still young as ****, in 2009 the crowd was ********pathetic in ufc events, it looked like arena was empty. So now just after 4 years suddently all talking about moneys. Its not a fan bussnes.

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