Retired fighter Chris Lytle became known as a bonus king, with his last career fight against Dan Hardy at UFC on Versus 5 scoring him Submission and Fight of the Night bonuses. Photo by Esther Lin.
Casual and hardcore fans alike are well aware of the UFC performance incentives publicly known as fight night bonuses. The theory goes, every fighter on a UFC card has the opportunity to be in the running for a Knock Out, Submission or Fight of the night bonus which can potentially add several tens of thousands of dollars on top of their 'show' and 'win' money. In the case of a big time UFC pay per view attraction this can potentially net a low-tier fighter a windfall many multiples of his disclosed purse, with the special UFC 100 event offering of $100,000 per bonus being the most memorable.
Not only can a fighter be in the running for one of these bonuses, it's often stressed by UFC President Dana White that a double bonus is possible if a KO or Submission is achieved within a Fight Of The Night performance. The financial incentive to fight hard and fight for a finish is a UFC strong point, and defenders of current UFC fighter pay point to this as the opportunity for fighters to step up and significantly increase their income.
Recent statistics though, suggest opportunity for these bonuses aren't quite as equal as we -- or the fighters -- were lead to believe.
In the latest 'Crunching Numbers' feature for MMA Fighting, Luke Thomas collates a number of statistics related to these discretionary bonuses based on the top 20 bonus earners in UFC history. You can find out on average how many significant strikes were landed or attempted by bonus winners, or the average fight time by the winner as well as their general winning percentage, among many other numerical tidbits.
Perhaps of most interest though, are the stats that focus on how the bonus distrubtion ranges across fighter placement on a card.
Continue reading after the jump
Luke Thomas lists the following statistical averages for bonus awards across fighter placement on a card, starting with the average number of Main Event bonus award winners at number 1, co-main event at number 2 and so on down the card.
Fight Of The Night stats:
In terms of the FOTN bonus, we see the biggest concentration of winners around the main event and main card with a near one-to-one correlation of bout position (1 is the main event, 2 is the co-main, etc.) and the number of times a fighter in that space has won that specific bonus. Here is how the numbers shake out:
Knock Out Of The Night stats:
The KOTN bonuses are spread out a bit more evenly over the distance of the card, but clearly pool around the main card:
As Luke points out later in his article, there's a clear discrepancy when it comes to what should be an equal opportunity for fighters to score these performance bonuses, as fighters can end up being hindered by their placement on a card.
I have to admit it's hard to recollect off hand which main or co-main event Fight or KO of the night bonuses were less worthy of the accolade and reward than a particular fight or fighter lower down on the card, though for me personally I do remember how terrible Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua vs Mark Coleman 2 was at UFC 93, and shockingly that was given a Fight Of The Night bonus, although at least the Marcus Davis vs Chris Lytle bout that opened the main card managed to score FOTN as well.
Let us also remember that a Knock Out scored higher up on a fight card's billing won't always supersede the bonus opportunity of any same night KO's that happened before it. In the case of Frank Mir separating Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filipovic from consciousness, the fight was so terrible up until the point of finish that Dana White denied Mir the bonus, despite his Knock Out of the Croatian being the sole KO on the card! Of course statistically though, this would appear to be an anomaly.
While the thought of bonuses possibly unfairly eluding fighters lower down on a card is a bit of a downer, the Submission Of The Night bonus offers a glimmer of hope as they appear to be more evenly distributed:
The SOTN is where things get a touch more interesting. These bonuses are more likely to be won by fighters much further down the card. In fact, this is the only list where the main event is not the highest number:
Ideally the distribution of bonuses will become on average fairer down the line. Yes, the higher up a fight is on a card the greater the level of importance and attention tends to be, but that shouldn't negate the hard work and fighting spirit of the men who 'bring it' and do all that could be asked of them, while serving as the important foundation that props up the more marquee names.
Fighters who are spectacular lower down on a card should never lose out on a performance bonus to a less impressive showing by bigger names.