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Travis Browne & Matt Riddle share their opinions on UFC fighter pay
Travis Browne recently spoke to MMA Junkie suggesting that fighters should not complain about their pay because they “voluntarily” signed a contract without coercion. Contrary to this belief, other critics have suggested that one of the fundamental flaws in these types of arguments is that outside of the UFC there are no other organizations that produce the same revenue muscle as the UFC, therefore other organizations are unlikely to be in a position to outbid the UFC.
Although the UFC would water down suggestions of a monopoly, there are currently no other MMA organizations valued at over 2 billion dollars that produce the multimillion dollar gate sales and PPV numbers of the UFC. The UFC are the only MMA organization to partner with a major sporting network such as Fox.
If I could offer an analogy, try selling your home for a high price when there is only one potential buyer interested? Then try to sell the same home when 100 buyers of equal financial capacity have turned up and are all bidding. You get the point.
The War Machine recently came out with some derogatory comments regarding fighter pay which was directed at Dana White. The War Machine argued that there is a moral dilemma when a UFC President has a collection of expensive Ferraris’ and can gamble millions of dollars away in a casino while his fighters barely make ends meet.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with the comments of War Machine, you have to acknowledge that there is an engrained problem over fighter pay for the UFC which has a long history. Some of the most prominent UFC stars have criticised the remuneration being offered including Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Rampage Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Nick Diaz and many others.
The complaints have always arrived as isolated disputes from either managers or fighters and we are yet to see a united campaign from a fighters union for obvious reasons. When Tim Kennedy recently highlighted his issues with the UFC pay, he was quickly reprimanded by the UFC releasing an apology the following day.
According to MMA Manifesto, Johnny Hendricks who is the number 1 contender in the UFC welterweight division has collected over $700,000 in reported earnings plus bonuses with a professional record of 10-1. Considering he made his UFC Debut in 2009, it will have taken 11 fights and just over 4 years to secure a title fight, not including the time spent prior in WEC.
There are big promises made by the UFC of major pay days which entice fighters into signing a contract. A big pay day however is largely dependent on getting a title shot which can take years and years of fighting and accumulated injuries. Jon Fitch for example has recently spoken about fighter pay revealing that a career in the UFC does not make you mega rich after taxes and other expenses. For many fighters, injury and losses will probably find them first before any prospect of a huge pay day despite years of dedication to the sport.
Take UFC welterweight fighter Matt Brown for example. Brown has disclosed earnings of approximately $350,000 plus bonuses since joining the UFC in 2008 and is approaching his 16th fight against Thiago Alves in August. Considered by many as a gatekeeper in the division, he has put on some of the most spectacular wars which raises the question on how much should someone like Brown be paid?
Another former UFC fighter worth mentioning is Matt Riddle who began his UFC career in 2008. Matt Riddle who was happy with his UFC salary, explained that before he was released from the UFC in 2013, he received $25k to show and $25K to win. Riddle, explained that if he fought three times per year and won all 3 fights he could potentially earn $250k including bonuses such as fight of the night, submission or KO. Take away his taxes, manager and gym fees and this is what Riddle received after four years with the promotion.
When it comes to UFC fighter pay there are two separate schools of fighters concerning inadequate pay. The first school of fighters are the newcomers who have established records in other organizations or disciplines and battle to survive on show money as little as $8,000 in their debut. It also includes the athletes who compete on The Ultimate Fighter who receive as much beer and baked beans in return for their blood, sweat and tears on the show. Once again the UFC dangles a big carrot promising each of these contestants a big payday in the future utilising their services and entertainment free of charge during the show with the exception of some small bonuses.
The second school of fighters complaining about remuneration is the millionaire’s club with members such as Rampage Jackson that want a bigger cut of the PPV sales. Often their complaints are generated based on the earnings of boxers like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquio who can receive 50% and beyond of PPV buys. They have felt that their star value is not being rewarded.
It appears that it is a long road ahead to receiving a big pay day in the UFC. Chances are you may be busted or retired before the sight of a big cheque actually arrives in the mail. It is definitely not the Wild West anymore where fighters are getting $500 for a win on some red neck under ground promotion. Pay is a lot better today then it was in the past without question, however the UFC are not prepared to disclose UFC profits to support their pay structure.
So fight fans, share your thoughts below on whether you feel fighters are being paid unfairly?