ESPN aired an “Outside the Lines” piece this past Sunday that peaked my interest immediately when I saw the topic listed on my cable providers information guide. The topic was UFC fighter pay. I am a UFC fan. And, I have a background as a compensation professional. It seemed like something worth taking a look at.
If you are a fan 0f the sport of mixed martial arts, I suggest you give it a watch here.
And, after doing so, view Dana White’s rebuttal video:
A Culture Of Pay For Performance…
ESPN wants to focus on the entry level fighters. It’s a fact that the entry-level UFC fighter doesn’t make near the wage of a league minimum player in the four major sports in base pay. However, the UFC isn’t a league that’s been around for decades. In reality, the UFC is more like a growing start-up.
The UFC has a graduating scale for their first three fights. In their first fight a truly entery level fighter will receive $6,000 to show and an additional $6,000 if he wins. These number increase to $8,000 and $8,000 for the second fight and $10,000 and $10,000 for the third.
That’s a potential total of $48,000 for a fighter in their first year. However, that’s not where the pay stops. And, I am not speaking of dollars earned outside the octagon, such as sponsorship deals.
The UFC’s typical bonus payout structure offers three main bonus payouts per event (in addition to other discretionary bonuses). The three common bonuses are fight of the night, submission of the night and knockout of the night. For a PPV event, each payout has recently been $75,000.
Fighters can actually get multiple bonuses in one night. Thus, a fighter making the minimum $6,000/$6,000 can actually walk away with an additional $150,000 if they win fight of the night and get a finish bonus.
Generally, a fighter will, on average, fight three-times in a calendar year. That means there is $498,000 available to an entry level fighter when these bonuses are added to base pay.
This type of highly leveraged pay is not often used in the other North American sports. However, it is often used in corporate America.