“Do your job and you will be more than paid”. That is what Kevin Holland said when discussing the hot topic of fighter pay today with Ariel Helwani. While many MMA athletes have been vocally upset with their income, Holland’s stance is a very refreshing one. “My family is happy. I don’t know what they are complaining about”.
Holland believes that co-workers upset with their paycheck are either not fighting enough or need to find better management. The former seems to be the case for Jared Cannonier who competed in the UFC Vegas 34 main event last Saturday. During his octagon interview, Cannonier stated he is broke and looking to fight again soon for additional income.
While the “I’m broke” line from Cannonier grabbed many headlines it is hardly the fault of the promotion. He only stepped into the octagon twice in the past 700 days. As the main event, Cannonier likely has a show and win bonus north of $70,000 each which is far higher than many athletes on the roster.
Further down the rankings are fighters like Cheyanne Buys who brought up the issue of pay after a massive win at UFC Vegas 33. It is a bit more understandable for athletes like her to complain with just two fights in the promotion as most have entry contracts of just $12,000 to show and $12,000 to win. She told the media how pleased she was to earn a $50,000 bonus for her performance that night, a fight that only took her one minute to finish.
Jake Paul has been vocal in the fighter pay conversation, likely due to his ongoing beef with Dana White. There are clearly more lucrative business opportunities in the boxing industry but he simply argues that White should be paying more to his fighters. Paul says, “It’s something I’m bullish on and something that needs to change”.
I believe the one valid argument for better fighter pay comes from the inequity perspective. Champions work hard to achieve greatness in this sport but I agree it is a bit silly that someone like Khabib Nurmagomedov earned $6 million in 2020 for a single fight. That is a lot to pay one fighter when others on the roster could lose three fifteen minute bouts and pocket a mere $30,000.
Many of the sport’s other stars have chimed in on the conversation such as Jorge Masvidal, Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou. However, the UFC and Dana White understand that the fighters will always need the promotion more than the other way around, and that is okay. It only helps the product from a fan perspective having athletes in the cage that want to earn undisputed gold.
If a professional MMA fighter is more concerned with their pay than championships, they will always have opportunities to earn more money elsewhere. KSW in Poland, One FC in Singapore and of course Bellator are a few promotions known for paying more to their fighters. In reality though, a UFC belt is far more valuable than a larger paycheck to show.
Mateusz Gamrot for example was a double-champion in KSW before deciding he wanted an even more sought after belt. He was vocal about taking a pay cut to sign with the UFC last September, but seemed more than happy with the $24,000 show and $24,000 win bonus after his second victory last month. He was also awarded a $50,000 performance bonus in that bout, netting just shy of $100k for a mere 65 seconds in the octagon.
To quote Dana White, “If you win, everything’s good. If you lose, everything’s bad. That’s the nature of this beast”. Fighters like Buys and Cannonier can whine all they want about fighter pay but in the end, the UFC will always have willing participants to sign on that dotted line.