The topic of fighter pay is one of the most discussed topics in the MMA industry at the moment. Even outsiders like Jake Paul have weighed in on the topic. In fact, if anyone is publicly discussing it, odds are they are standing up for fighters, especially big names such as Jon Jones, who has been in a negotiation stalemate with the UFC for several weeks now.
Despite the prevalence of this topic, there are some voices who are unquestionably valued more than others among MMA fighters and, frankly, the MMA community in general. It’s one thing for YouTuber Jake Paul to speak up on the subject, and it’s quite another for arguably the greatest fighter to ever do it, Georges St-Pierre, to do so.
In a lengthy essay published on WealthSimple.com, St-Pierre did just that.
The Early Days Of Georges “Rush” St-Pierre
Georges St-Pierre made his MMA debut in 2002. In his essay, the former welterweight king walked the readers through what his early days in the sport were like regarding his pay rate.
“When I first started fighting professionally, I didn’t make a lot of money. I was 19 when I had my first professional fight in Montreal with an organization called TKO. I earned $1,300,” St-Pierre wrote. “And then after a few fights, I got recruited by the UFC, which was the most prestigious organization in the world. It was like making the NBA. But the money was still terrible. For my first UFC fight, I got $3,000 to show and $3,000 to win.
“For my first fight for the world title, I got paid $9,000 to show and $9,000 to win, but I lost to Matt Hughes. So, I only made $9,000 for my first world title fight. I was very underpaid. Then after that, I rebounded with a few victories and I got another shot at the world title. After I won the world title at 25, I had my revenge.”
Georges St-Pierre, Welterweight King
The referenced year for both St-Pierre’s debut and his first world title fight is 2004. Two years later, St-Pierre captured the UFC welterweight championship, and that’s when everything changed.
“So after I won the championship in 2008, I took a big gamble on myself and told UFC I was not going to re-sign with them. And then, the day before my fight with Jon Fitch, the UFC came back with a big, crazy contract because they didn’t want me to become a free agent. You read I made $400,000 a match? No. I made a lot more than that. A lot more than that. Millions.”
In essence, St-Pierre’s advice to fighters is to take the most proactive approach possible in their aims to earn more money, which is to empower themselves to the point where their salary has to be commensurate with their value, especially when they demand accordingly.
“When I was at the peak of my career, I was making many millions of dollars. Because you not only get the money to show and the money to win, but you also have a percentage of the gate and pay-per-view buys — the gate and the pay-per-views are where the real money is. That’s how fighters make their money. But you need to have the power to negotiate those terms. I was very successful so I could demand that extra money.”
Grand $10 Million Farewell
The cherry on top for St-Pierre? His 2016 return, where he not only managed to win a world title in second weight class, but he also netted the biggest payday of his career.
“I only came back when the UFC hired an organization called USADA to test their athletes. And as I expected, a lot of their champions failed their drug tests. So, when I saw that, I was like, ‘Finally, the corruption is over.’ And I was happy to come back in 2016. But I didn’t want to come back to fight for the same title. I wanted to make history and do something different. So, I challenged Michael Bisping, the champion in a heavier weight class.
“I came back mostly for my own sense of accomplishment, but of course, the money was there. There’s a lot of people buried in the desert for much less than what I made for that fight, my friend. For the fight with Michael Bisping, with the pay-per-views, the sponsorship and all that, I made about $10 million. Then in 2019, I got out. I’m very lucky and very privileged that I finished on top. The reality is most fighters finish broke and broken.”
St-Pierre has made efforts for one more fight in a farewell bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov, which would likely be the new #1 entry on the list of St-Pierre’s biggest paydays. Unfortunately, the timing was not right and those talks are dead, so St-Pierre will just have to settle for being a multi-millionaire who exited the sport as the best fighter of all time on many people’s lists.
What do you think fighters should take away from Georges St-Pierre’s essay?