Meanwhile, the fighter-turned-podcaster Brendan Schaub estimated that the UFC shares a whopping seven percent of its revenue with the people doing the actual fighting.
Incredibly, this figure may be high. Let’s do the math.
The UFC 202 event this past August reportedly sold a record 1.65 million pay-per-views. Even being conservative and saying they were all purchased at the standard price of 50 bucks (and not the higher HD cost), that’s $82.5 million. Then add $7,629,010 from the live gate.
That brings us to $90,129,010—without factoring in merchandise and sponsorships and other revenue streams for a business that recently sold for a reported $4 billion.
The disclosed payout to the 24 actual UFC fighters on the card, including win bonuses for some of the fighters who came out on top: $6,106,000.
That works out to 6.8 percent.
McGregor genuinely seems to recognize that a fighter’s life is short, and when he brags about how much money he makes, he sends out this message: “This is how much it’s possible to earn—get your share too.”
For its part, the UFC would argue they have many expenses and they don’t just pocket all of that $90 million. The UFC also notes that fighters often receive fight-night bonuses (say, 50 grand for “Performance of the Night”), as well other undisclosed bonuses. Stars may even get a cut of the PPV.
It’s still impossible to avoid two conclusions:
1. Even if you double or triple or quadruple that percentage, it’s damn small.
2. UFC fighters are in a miserable position to negotiate.
When is it easiest to get a raise? When you can say: “I know Bill does the same job as I do, but he gets $10,000 more than me for doing it—I want that too.”
UFC fighters struggle to keep up with the (Jon) Joneses because they’re likely unaware if or when the Joneses passed them by.
Furthermore, the UFC’s approach to bonuses creates an incentive to stay on management’s good side, in the hope of getting one’s hands on some of those dangling carrots.
Which is a risky position to take in a sport where, Dan Henderson aside, fighters don’t stick around for too long.
So most fighters are underpaid and unwilling to do anything about it.
Enter Conor McGregor.