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A Sneak Peek into the Earnings of UFC Fighters

From being in a position of going bankrupt in 2005 to having an annual revenue close to $1 billion, UFC has come a long way. But in lieu of this revenue if you think that UFC fighters are also making a lot of money just like other sports stars, then I urge you to think again. No doubt it’s easy to assume that getting punched and unconscious for other people’s entertainment must be paying well. But the sad reality is something else.

As stated by Betway, the current estimated value of UFC is $7 billion. Still, a fighter at the start of his UFC career gets a basic contract which pays only $10,000 per fight and $10,000 for a win. Here, if you feel it’s decent money then let’s run some facts about being a professional fighter.

If you are a professional fighter, then as per renowned MMA journalist Jim Edwards, around $4,000 of that amount is spent on camp, a minimum 10% of the fee goes to the manager. So, right from the start, you are running $5,000 down and then comes the cost of food and nutrition, which keeps on adding as the camp moves further. On top of this, the bottom rug players get covered for only one cornerman by UFC. This means they have to bear the travel cost of another cornerman, and then consider the hotel prices for a few nights. A decent hotel could easily cost $1,000 or more.

So, when you take tax as well in the equation, the fighter is left with few hundreds, a few grand if he wins. So even though Conor McGregor earned $47 million in 2018, his opponent Nurmagomedov earned only $11.5 million for repeating his win over McGregor in any potential match across the same period.

After the Reebok sponsorship deal, only top fighters get sponsorship opportunities outside UFC. The bare payout of Reebok sponsorship deal is $3,500, and it goes up to $40,000 for champion fighters. However, prior to the Reebok deal fighters used to get lots of sponsorship opportunities of their own. But nowadays, MMA fighters earn primarily from the fight only.

In 2018, 37% or 213 UFC’s fighters made less than $45,000 a year, which is less than the average annual income of a U.S household. Only 33% or 187 UFC fighters made six-figure earning in 2018. Although with the increasing popularity of MMA, the number of fighters below the average income of a U.S household is continuing to rise. This means these fighters are working another job, especially before landing a contract with UFC. The sad part is even if they get a basic contract, then leaving a job may still not be an option for them.

Currently, there is no fighter’s union in MMA. We have seen in the past that such players association give athletes the power to negotiate with owners on collective agreements. The balance of power in MMA is such that fighters don’t hold the cards; the power is in the hands of promoters. The passion for the sport keeps the fighters in the game, but the obsession is not enough to feed their families.

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