Light at the end of the Money tunnel?
It’s a slippery slope, all this talk about fighter pay. At some point here, we may see an implosion. Dana White isn’t exactly a fan of his fighters speaking out against the establishment. Remember what happened when Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Cain Velasquez spoke up about possibly not signing their likeness over to the UFC for their video game? Dana went nucking futs. “We're looking for guys who want to work with us and not against us and frankly I'm just so fu*king sick of this sh*t, it's not even funny. Fu*k him. Fu*k them. All of them. Every last fu*king one of them.”
Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and all moved forward (sort of) amicably. A few years later, they seem to be at a crossroad again. It seems like with every interview now, fighters are complaining about pay. In the last few months we’ve heard guys like Tim Kennedy and Jon Fitch speak out against the Zuffa machine. The gripe is that entry level guys in the UFC aren’t getting paid enough. I see both sides of the coin and like I said, it’s a slippery slope.Recently, all the complaining has caught up to the fighters and Dana is contemplating getting rid of the ‘fight of the night’ bonuses. He and Lorenzo Fertitta are looking at how to spread the wealth around to all fighters. Here is where the situation gets dicey. Say for example, an entry level guy starts making a contracted amount of $50k a year in the UFC. Do we get lousier fights, because the fighter has some security and isn’t fighting for a bonus? Does this fighter fight safely because he is protected by a contract? These questions may be sorted out in the near future and we may not like the result.Take a look at GSP. At UFC 65, he was paid $55k for beating Matt Hughes and winning the title. Since then, the UFC and his career have grown simultaneously. In his last fight against Nick Diaz he pulled in $400,000 and probably a ppv percentage, as well as enormous sponsorship money. Likely, he made between $750k and $1m. Point is, you won’t hear him complaining about pay. Or Cain. Or Anderson. Or Jon Jones.If you take a mid tier guy like Gleison Tibau, who also fought at UFC 65; He earned $3,000 in his UFC debut against Nick Diaz. His last fight was against John Cholish and Tibau made $66k. If he lost, he would have made $33k. If he fought 3 times a year and lost every fight, he would still have made $99k. Again, not a lot to complain about there.Clearly, the pay issue is for entry level guys coming to the UFC. I’m not talking about the guys who come in as superstars from another organization. This money issue is in regards to the fighter who dreams of fighting in the UFC and has made $500 a fight in small promotions. What employer hires a kid out of college to a large base salary? None. They have no value yet. It takes time to build up experience that people are willing to pay good money for. You are paid what you are worth in the fight game and life in general. Remember when Mike Tyson used to fight? You got all your buddies together, chipping in to buy a Pay Per View. Remember what time those Mike Tyson ppv fights began? Roughly 9:00 pm or so. Well, they had undercards as well. No one cared. People like Christy Martin fought on those undercards and I guarantee you, she made peanuts to Tyson’s $20 million. In MMA there is so much emphasis on watching the Facebook fights, then FX and then the Pay Per View. People want to watch 12 fights and don’t just tune in for the main event anymore. We are fight nerds and every fight seems important. For mainstream fans (the ones who buy the ppv), they could give a **** about Mike Pierce fighting on Facebook when they order the Weidman vs Silva ppv. THAT is why base salaries are about $6,000 to show. By the way, Mike Pierce made $44,000 in his last fight and fought 4 times in 2012. He cleared $100k easily last year.I respect all fighters, but fighting is their chosen profession. They agreed to fight for an agreed upon amount of money. If you want to live like a rockstar and make those big dollars, then you need to fight like a rockstar to earn it. Saying you deserve more money does nothing and now fighters in the UFC are on the verge of losing bonuses for performing well. If they have a legitimate gripe that they want addressed, they need to have their agent re-negotiate their contracts. Tweeting it to the masses will only dig a hole that they can’t get out of. I’m on the side of fighters getting paid what they deserve. I like the Zuffa system of payments and especially like the bonuses. Watching a guy like James Krause lose to Justin Lawrence to get into the tuf house and then come back at UFC 161 to make over $100k in bonus money was awesome. His hard work paid off and he absolutely deserved that money. The only real money issue is the ridiculous sponsor tax that the UFC implemented. It absolutely killed the small company market in MMA. That is the problem with fighter pay. No one can afford to sponsor fighters, because of the percentage the UFC are forcing these companies to pay. Doing this takes money directly from the athlete’s pocket and it is wrong. But that is an entirely different article.