Reminder: UFC fighter pay numbers are bullshit

Unsourced UFC fighter pay stories help no one.

By: Trent Reinsmith | 2 months ago
Reminder: UFC fighter pay numbers are bullshit
Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya headlines UFC 287, we don't know what their UFC fighter pay is.

I don’t receive many PR pitches, but the one that showed up in my email this morning got my attention. The subject was “UFC 287 Fighter Pay: Challenger Adesanya to earn 2x more than champion Pereira ($1m v $542k).” Knowing what I know about UFC fighter pay disclosure and Florida—the state does not disclose fighter pay and hasn’t done so since 2021—the PR pitch raised my hackles.

The piece went on to tell readers that “The Sports Daily have done a deep dive into the salaries, fighter pay and incentive pay for the upcoming UFC 287,” before informing me “The UFC normally doesn’t disclose fighter pay for obvious reasons (contract negotiations) but some previously disclosed figures can help us come to an appropriate estimate.”

Don’t fall for publications claiming they’ve estimated UFC fighter pay

That’s all pretty clearly a load of bullshit. First, the UFC has never been the one to disclose fighter pay, that has only ever exclusively come from the athletic commissions. Second, that “contract negotiations” explanation might almost ring true—in that the UFC does not want fighters to know what anyone is making because it gives them all the power in contract negotiations—but it’s certainly no reason that the information shouldn’t be available. It’s pure UFC lobbying that’s seen to that.

As former NHLPA boss Donald Fehr once said, “You have to know where you slot in. If you don’t have the salary information, you can’t do that. If you can’t do that, you can’t negotiate it.”

Last of all, though, is the mention of an “appropriate estimate” of the numbers. They might as well write in ‘guesstimate’ for all the water that holds.

We do have a few solid numbers to work with

Let’s look at the top fighters on the card. UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira has never fought under a jurisdiction where salaries have been disclosed. With that, there is no real way to know what type of deal he came into the UFC on.

Fans should remember that this man was a two-time Glory Kickboxing champ with years of experience before he inked his deal with the UFC, that pretty clearly fast tracked him into title contention. It seems foolish to assume outright that he’s on the same kind of deal any other fighter might be in his position. We have no idea what his first UFC contract looked like or what he’s earning as the reigning middleweight king.

As for ex-UFC middleweight kingpin Israel Adesanya, his last disclosed payday came in June 2021 when he held the UFC middleweight belt. He earned a disclosed $500,000 for beating Marvin Vettori in that fight. Since then, Adesanya is 2-1 and has not had a disclosed payout.

It would be great to know how the pitch person for this story came up with the payout figures for fighters like Raul Rosas Jr., Karl Williams, and Joseph Pyfer. The UFC 287 pay for those men is listed at $10,000. Which seems like an obvious guess to make they were debuting on their first UFC card after winning their contracts on Dana White’s Contender Series. But, each of these men has a UFC win on their record at this point in time.

If we know anything about UFC pay to estimate with based off years past, it’s that fighters usually seen an incremental bump in compensation after each win. As long as someone’s pulling numbers out of their ass, they could at least look for the right ones.

California is one of the only commissions that still discloses UFC fighter pay numbers

Outside of California—and a few other states the UFC rarely ever visits—none of the promotion’s regular athletic commission partners discloses UFC fighter pay. That fact alone makes these posts infuriatingly useless. They serve no purpose but to sucker in and mislead those readers who don’t have a firm grip on the politicking and history of the sport.

We too often see these ‘UFC fighter payout’ stories for events where no information has been disclosed, and see too many fans throwing the numbers they engineer around as fact. They aren’t. The figures given in these pieces are guesses. Hiding behind a weak-kneed “disclaimer.” Declaring that “All figures are estimates. UFC does not disclose salary unless required by state law” doesn’t change the fact that they’re purposefully designed to mislead.

Fortunately, reputable sites interested in anything outside of clicks and ad revenue tend to avoid this kind of misinformation like the plague. But, not every site has that concern.

So for those fans out there who might be unaware, please know. If you see UFC salary info that isn’t directly citing a state athletic commission disclosure for the specific event in question, then you’re seeing a load of BS with an enticing title on top. Clickbait in the purest form.

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About the author
Trent Reinsmith
Trent Reinsmith

Trent Reinsmith is a freelance writer based out of Baltimore, MD. He has been covering sports for more than 15 years, with a focus on MMA for most of that time. Trent focuses on the day-to-day business of MMA — both inside and outside the cage — for Bloody Elbow.

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