There have been a couple of discussions about the UFC’s pay scale lately, the most recent being people’s comparisons of UFC fighter pay versus Floyd Mayweather Jr’s pay. Money Mayweather made 90 million last year off two fights, and some people say that shows just how out of whack UFC pay is. I’d say it shows just how out of whack boxing pay is – just another example of someone sucking every red cent out of the sport that they can – but one area of UFC pay that’s hard to defend is the starting salary.
The average UFC fighter makes 6k/6k to 8k/8k per fight, which is pretty miserable. Especially when you factor in the expenses of a training camp and bringing your team to corner you in your fight. UFC fighter John Cholish, who announced his imminent retirement leading up to his fight this weekend, breaks it down:
Cholish said he made $8,000 for his fight Saturday night. However, Cholish said he won’t end up making much after factoring in his expenses. Cholish estimated that the costs of his camp and for his team to travel to Brazil for UFC on FX 8 will end up being between $5,000 and $10,000. These expenses include medical tests, visas, licensing fees and payment for coaching and management.
“I think if you’re a fighter on the lower level you should at least be getting enough income win or lose in your fight so that…you can go into that fight fully focused on the fight,” Cholish said. “I don’t understand how [lower-level fighters] can live off the income at this level.”
Fighter pay has been a longstanding issue in the sport of Mixed Martial arts, and in the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization. Cholish suggests that most fighters are too worried about the consequences that come with complaining or speaking out regarding the matter.
“I just think a lot of fighters feel the same exact way I do but are just in a situation or a position where for lack of a better word they’re just scared to speak out because they’re worried about the repercussions.”
In the end, Cholish decided the risk is not worth the reward, and so he has officially retired from the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
“Going into these fights, I knew I was going to lose money,” Cholish said. “If I’m losing money, is it really something I want to keep doing, especially if I’m putting myself at risk?”
Cholish is fortunate enough to have a job at a commodities brokerage firm to fall back on. That probably made his decision to hang em up and concentrate on making money instead of losing it a lot easier. The UFC often talks about all the money fighters are making off sponsorships, and how that clears the gap between making money and losing money in the league. But with all the growth we’ve seen over the past four years, shouldn’t entry level pay have increased by now?
Cholish’s point about fighters being unable to focus on training because their financials are fucked rings true. He may not have been a future contender but how many future contenders have we lost because they were smart enough to run the numbers and decided gambling on a UFC career was a fool’s bet?
(pic by Jason de Silva for USA Today)