The NBA owners and players split revenues roughly 50/50. NFL players receive at least 47 percent of revenues. MLB players take in just under 40 percent.

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.

That $6,106,000 for 24 fighters? More like $1,106,000 for 22 of them, for an average of $50,272.73. Factor in expenses (which the UFC does not cover) and taxes and these guys, who are lucky to fight four times a year, pocket maybe 20 grand per bout.

The remaining $5 million went to the duo in the headline bout. “The Notorious” Conor McGregor took home $3 million, while his opponent, Nate Diaz, earned $2 million.

And McGregor definitely scored some bonus that night. He insists his cut took his earnings to $25 million.

McGregor loves to exaggerate, but if this is somehow true, it would bring known fighter revenue from the night to $28,106,000, or an almost respectable 31 percent.

So why does McGregor get paid when virtually no else does? A few reasons…

1. His fans travel. Thousands of his fellow Irish have treated McGregor as a fine excuse to go to Vegas and, come this Saturday, New York. When he’s on a card, we see an audience that no one else gets.

2. He’s a bit of talker. Indeed, words are largely what got him noticed in the first place.

3. He’s willing to take on weird challenges. Twice McGregor had a championship opponent cancel on short notice—twice he gladly welcomed a substitute, even shifting weight classes to keep a card alive. Once that led to a thrilling win over Chad Mendes, once that led to an equally thrilling loss to Nate Diaz.

4. He mans up in defeat. Cam Newton, this is what people wanted from you after the Super Bowl.

5. He spins shit into gold. The loss to Nate Diaz was devastating… until the UFC realized everyone would pay for another go, leading to record sales and a McGregor win in the genuinely awesome rematch—and there’s now a monster third fight whenever McGregor wants it.

6. Who the hell else is there? Ronda Rousey responded to a devastating knockout by vanishing from the sport for months. Jon Jones is in the midst of yet another suspension, this time for a drug violation after taking a “dick pill.” Brock Lesnar has his own drug issues and appears to have permanently returned to the pro wrestling world. The thrilling “Cyborg” Justino is forced to lose dangerous amounts of weight each fight because the UFC doesn’t have a weight class for her, making it likely her kidneys will take her down before any actual opponent does.

7. He seems willing to walk away. His famed “I have decided to retire young” tweet during a contract negotiation was retweeted over 160,000 times.


Of course, he didn’t retire—he just came back when the money improved. Which is much easier to do when your fridge already has a lot of “cheese” in it.

But McGregor also genuinely seems to recognize that a fighter’s life is short, sometimes quite literally. He was devastated earlier this year after watching a bout that ultimately led to the death of one of the fighters.

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.

McGregor can be loudmouthed, greedy and a general pain in the arse for everyone.

He’s also the only guy getting his due.

Other fighters, proceed accordingly.