An excellent analysis of fighter pay

Pro-fighter Nick "The Goat" Thompson argues, quite persuasively in my view, that entry-level UFC fighter pay is actually pretty fair.  Notable quote: As little…

By: Luke Thomas | 17 years ago
An excellent analysis of fighter pay
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Pro-fighter Nick “The Goat” Thompson argues, quite persuasively in my view, that entry-level UFC fighter pay is actually pretty fair.  Notable quote:

As little as two years ago, the standard pay for a first time UFC fighter was $2,000 to fight and $2,000 to win. Now the lowest paid UFC fighter receives $3,000 and $3,000 and most receive $4,000 and $4,000 or $5,000 and $5,000.

This is a 50% to a 250% pay raise in a little over a year. And while this pay is still low as compared to other athletes, I think the UFC should get the benefit of the doubt for at least a while longer. The UFC incurred huge losses for years and has only recently gained popular acceptance. It seems natural for the fighter pay to lag behind for a few years until the UFC has cemented themselves as a pillar of the sporting community.

There is more to understanding this issue than just glancing at the average salary of an entry level UFC fighter. First, it is not as though a first time UFC fighter is taking a pay cut.

By and large, when a fighter first goes to the UFC, a good pay day up to that point has been between $1,000 and $2,000. This is not true for every fighter, but by and large, outside of the major organizations, this is what a UFC entry level caliber fighter is worth.

Fighting for the UFC is often a significant increase in pay. Add to this the additional $2,000 to $5,000 the fighter is making off of sponsorship. Now it is a huge pay raise as compared to what they were paid before the UFC.

And the pay raise is not temporary. As soon as you fight in the UFC, your value to other shows and to sponsors increases. So not only are you getting a pay raise while fighting in the UFC, but you are getting a pay raise for every fight thereafter.

Well put.  But not all is well in Smallsville.  While Thompson believes entry-level UFC pay is fair, mid-level pay is not.  And just as I’ve pointed out how marginalized Jon Fitch is in terms of marketing, it turns out his pay isn’t up to snuff either:

While the entry level guys are getting paid what they are worth and the Chuck Liddell’s are obviously taken care of, the John Fitch’s and Nick Diaz’s seem to get lost in the shuffle. It is reported that John Fitch was paid $13,000 and $13,000 for his last fight.

On its face this does not appear to be a bad pay day. But think about it, for the level Fitch is at, it’s not all that great either. Fitch is on of the most dominant welterweights in the world and if he wins every fight this year, he will barely crack $100,000.

The worst long snapper in the NFL gets paid significantly more than this. And remember, Fitch is responsible for his own insurance, supplements, training dues, manager dues, etc.

Thompson points out earlier in the article the UFC should be given the benefit of the doubt in terms of fighter pay because of the huge losses they incurred prior to the recent explosion in popularity.  I think that goes for this situation as well.  Fitch is in a tough spot because even though he’s a winner, he doesn’t have a lot of leverage to argue for more.  He could leave the UFC, but are there greener pastures at this point?  And unlike Brandon Vera, there isn’t a lot of buzz surrounding his name.  While I sympathize with Fitch’s situation, a little more patience as Zuffa grows may be in order here.  Now more than ever Zuffa seems poised to compensate fighters for their talent and hard work.  “Patience” isn’t the sexiest answer, but it’s the best we’ve got at this point.

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