One of the defining characteristics of the “modern era” of the UFC is a constant reevaluation of the pay structure in the promotion.
This is in large part due to the looming threat of unions/associations as well as the UFC’s own financial situations with big TV deals and the $4.2 billion sale of the promotion in 2016.
Throughout the UFC’s history, one goal for many fighters and their management was to land one of the rare contracts without a “win bonus” and with pay-per-view points. For example, during his peak, Chuck Liddell’s salary was not tied to getting his hand raised at the end of the night. He made the same $500k to defeat Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79 he made when he lost to Rashad Evans at UFC 88.
The removal of the win bonus eliminates some variables outside the control of the fighter and places them in a more financially stable position where they can adequately plan their lives win or lose.
Speaking on his JRE MMA Show, longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan fired shots at the current practice of “win bonuses” for most fighters, originally designed to provide motivation to fight harder for the win.
“I just don’t like the win bonus,” Rogan said (transcript via MMAjunkie). “I don’t think anybody fights harder for it.”
“That to me is a real issue. I think a guy should be paid what they get paid. I think if you have a contract, that contract should be for ‘X’ amount of money. If you have points on the pay-per-view, that’s on top of that. But the idea that your win or loss has to be in the hands of what we have deemed completely incompetent judges.”
Referees, judges and the risk of fluke injuries costing you half of your income is a constant worry for fighters, and Rogan spoke to the fact athletic commissions refuse to hold their officials accountable, thus increasing the instability in the sport.
“I’ve heard (blowback) from Athletic Commissions, but I say, ‘Go (expletive) yourself,’” Rogan said. “You have guys who train for months and months and months and someone who literally doesn’t understand martial arts is giving these guys a decision, a loss or a win. That’s 50 percent of their money. That’s crazy.”
It’s unlikely the UFC would ever eliminate the practice without some sort of organization — official or not — by the fighters demanding a change.
And that means unpredictable pay in an unpredictable environment will continue.
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