We Need to Talk About The Problem With UFC’s Payment System [Editorial]

Dana White
Image Credit: Getty Images

While the UFC continues to attract flak for how the company pays their fighters, it has never been more apparent that the criticism is warranted

For fighters, there is a simple formula: show up and get x amount, win and you will (usually) get double that amount in total. However, lose, and you have lost half of your coin. With no guaranteed purse and a system designed to encourage and incentivize exciting fights, this is the reality for most fighters on the roster.

Discounting performance based bonuses (such as KO of the night or performance of the night) pay-per-view cuts (where applicable) and a figure pertaining to the UFC’s controversial apparel deal with Reebok, things are simple. For a fighter on the lower end of the spectrum, which is tipped on the opposite end by none other than Conor McGregor, it can be tough to make this system work to their advantage.

A fighter who doesn’t always necessary look for a finish but would rather approach a contest with caution, for example, risks losing out financially. It appears these days that, with the lack of sponsorship money due to the aforementioned Reebok deal, fighters aiming to make a name for themselves on the prelims or undercards have no choice but to go gung-ho. While this isn’t a remarkable or fresh commentary in itself, what highlights the flaw in the system is the growing trend of boring and overcautious championship defenses.

Amanda Nunes’ performance against Valentina Shevchenko, much like that of Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia, was lambasted for proving to be far off a spectacle. While nothing can be taken away from either performance (being as judicious and unfriendly to spectators as they were) many believe that fighters would rather do all they can to hold on to a belt rather than lose a title and risk the huge drop in pay which would follow.

While losing a fight for a lower level fighter or one on their way up is basically losing out on 50% of their pay, for a champion, the loss of pay-per-view revenue and guaranteed, larger figures would be a nightmare.

Former WSOF world champion David Branch made this point on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. Branch, insisting that he was far from interested in being a part of any revolution or movement seeking change, did confirm what most suspect:

“Becoming the champion is where the sure-shot money is. That’s where the money is. No matter what. Even if your fight is fu*king boring or not, if you’re the champion, if you win, you’re getting paid.”

“Who in their right mind wants to be that exciting when you risk losing half your fu*king money, but you going out there for all the fu*king risks?”

Time for a change?