Is there a genuine concern about the pay checks of UFC Fighters?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UFC has been publicizing record profits but with that, there is still much negative talk when it comes to the paychecks being given to the fighters. According to Dan Hardy. ex-UFC fighter: “Not a good look’ for UFC that fighters are begging for money, everyone is ‘scrambling for the scrap.” Even making it difficult for some to enjoy the fruits of a FairGo casino login.

Fighter’s pay has long been a subject of debate

The pay received by fighters has always been the subject of debate, but Ari Emanuel, UFC owner and Endeavor CEO not long ago criticized those making those claims by arguing that Conor McGregor was actually the highest paid athlete in sports. At the same time, Dana White, UFC president regularly lashes out at those who question the paychecks of his athletes and that includes the recent conflicts involving Oscar Le La Hoya and Jake Paul about this very topic.

Meanwhile, UFC athletes like Jared Cannonier reported that he had to fight more often because he “was going broke” while he sat on the sidelines because of injury. Even Cheyanne Buys, the former Contender Series winner and UFC strawweight mentioned that she had a minus in her bank account before a recent fight, but that it was fixed by the UFC giving her a post-fight bonus after a spectacular victory.

The current UFC pay model is under real scrutiny, especially when one sees fighters like Cannonier and Buys with such amazing wins, making mixed martial arts highly profitable worldwide, while at the same time these fighters are complaining that they are struggling financially.   Dan Hardy is critical of the pay model saying, when talking with MMA Fighting, “It’s not a good look.  I also don’t think it’s a good look for someone like Brian Kelleher to say that he’s looking for a YouTuber to fight so he doesn’t have to get a job at WalMart after he’s done with his career.   Then there’s the other female fighter, Sara Alpar that she started a GoFundMe account. It’s just not a good look, especially when you’ve got fighters on one side starting GoFundMe accounts and on the other side the UFC are signing $175 million contracts where the fighters will not see a penny of it.  It is disappointing.”

The problem must be tackled

Hardy argues that a big part of the problem is the bonuses that the UFC pays out each time after every fight. That extra money, $50,000, sometimes more, has led to many fighters being in a position of having to beg for the money after a good win.  Obviously receiving the bonus is well appreciated and a nice reward after a good fight, but Hardy argues that paying fighters a good wage would be one solution to fixing the problem.

Hardy goes on to say “The environment that’s been created by the UFC is everyone scrambling for the scraps. It’s all about bonuses.  Why can’t it be about the pay?  Make sure these fighters are covered before they get in there so they’re not fighting at a deficit and hoping a bonus will help them recover the debt. The reality is we know the money’s being made now.”

We now know more about the finances of the company as UFC owners at Endeavor are now a traded company. In the many reports Endeavor has boasted of the huge success of the UFC, even more so since the beginning of the pandemic.  They were making enormous profits from pay per view and since the reopening of arenas fans have been buying tickets in massive numbers.

Hardy reflects this when he says ‘We know that money’s being made in the sport of MMA.  It’s just not finding its way to the fighters.  That’s got to change.  It has to change.  It’s been the same in other sports in previous times and the shift has been moved over so 50 percent or more of profits are coming to the fights.  That’ how it should be.  We all know that. I can say that as much as I want now.”

In most other major sports like football or basketball the players receive about 50 percent of the profits together with ownership and these figures are always negotiated up front as part of the collective bargaining agreement.   The fact that there aren’t any fighter unions representing mixed martial arts, it means that each individual has to negotiate their contracts for themselves in any promotion.

Hardy, along with many others doesn’t think that the situation will change in the very near future.   However, he does see something positive happening, in that other options are surfacing and available for fighters and are having an impact on the pay structure in MMA.

Hardy says “I don’t think there’s a better (advertisement) for the other organizations than when the likes of Cory Anderson goes over to Bellator and it like ‘I’m getting paid way more than I was with the UFC.”   Also, when Paige VanZant going to bare knuckle boxing and bringing in so much more than she was when with the UFC.  It’s bringing attention to everyone that the money is there and being made.

“I think the more fighters, obviously MMA’s growing generally as well, and we need more space for these fighters to be competing, but I think the fighters are realizing the options are far greater.  Before they put pen to paper on one organization, they’ve got options to consider.  Cage Warriors just put on a show in the US in California, obviously PFL are very strong at the moment, Invicta just changed hands and I’m interested to see where they go.  It’s an exciting time to be a part of MMA and the options are starting to open up for fighters.”

Hardy hopes that in the long term, although it will cost them more money to pay the fighters a higher share of the profits, the UFC will decide to change its business practices.    Ultimately, he believes this will benefit the sport in the long term and bring more health to the promotion and the sport.

Hardy says “Brian Kelleher’s a good example right – we want Brian Kelleher when he retires to be happy and proud to have been part of the UFC, to love the UFC because he felt like he was a part of something great and to have enough money in his back pocket to go back to his hometown and open a gym and train the next bunch of young fighters.   But if these guys like Ryan Benoit, I know he had a job with UPS for a while when he was considering retirement.  We don’t want to lose Ryan Benoit to UPS. We want him to have his MMA gym.”

Hardy goes on to say that “We don’t want Kelleher to be checking people out at Walmart. We want him to have his MMA gym or to be a judge or a referee or something.  We need these guys within the sport.  It’s neglecting the grassroots by underpaying the fighters. It’s cutting off their options and then stifling the next generation of fighters.  That overall will affect the standard of MMA in years to come.  If the UFC is smart, they’ll start throwing a bit more cash around so the fighters can reinvest more in the industry. That’s ultimately where their money is going to go.”


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