The more I have paid attention to MMA and the fighter pay issues the more I’m realizing this isn’t a terribly viable career for most of these fighters; at least they shouldn’t treat it as one. This is a hobby that they can make some extra money at on the side and MAYBE, just maybe turn it into a career. Hitting the “big time” in the UFC doesn’t exactly mean you’re making the big bucks or being guaranteed...well, anything.
It seems as a fighter you can’t raise a family, invest, set enough away for retirement, ect with the pay most fighters are getting. But some, if not most, fighters think they can turn this hobby into riches or financial security for them and their families. Some sure enough will, most will not.
I think there are a few ways to approach fighting at the UFC level and the fighters need to decide what they really want and can obtain out of it.
- Treat fighting as a hobby, one that you don’t use to cover your day to day bills and if you make extra money, awesome, if you don’t, well you were not counting on it anyway. Chris Lytle is a perfect example of this. Firefighter by day UFC fighter by night. I don’t think he ever thought he was going to fight for a title or if he even mentioned it as something he wanted outside of the payday it would bring. (I know he won the Cage Rage WW Title but that is one fight sandwiched between a WEC and UFC fight so take that for what it is). Instead he went out there to put on the best, most exciting fight he was able to each time out and he constantly fought for the finish. He’s also the person with the most “of the night” bonuses in the UFC to the tune of about $500,000.
- Make yourself more valuable to the UFC and Sponsors. Gain a following all on your own. Work your ass off in the public eye doing good things, staying out of trouble, teaching classes, promoting yourself, being funny, writing guest columns on websites, doing interviews, donating your time to charities, having your own blog or vlog.... SOMETHING more than is currently being done. Best example of this would be Pat Barry. Pat is a very exciting fighter in the cage, you know it’s going to be entertaining win or lose when he is involved. It’s what he does outside of fighting with his fight build ups, his randomness in social media and just all around likeable personality. More followers the more eyeballs you have on you equals more value to the UFC in potential viewers of their product and sponsors getting their logo/ products seen by more people which can lead you to more money for the fighter.
- Get all the fighters you can that aren’t getting paid enough and convince the ones that are getting paid enough to form a fighter’s organization and do what you have to in order to get the UFC to pay you more. If that means getting all the fighters together and hiring somebody to talk to the UFC for you or trying to lobby to get a law enacted that creates a higher split between the promoter and fighters so be it.
As it stands right now with everything as is I think fighters should look at fighting as more of a hobby than a full blown career. If you get into it and start doing well keep doing it and hopefully you can “move up” to a higher salary, bigger sponsors, more fights per year, ect. If you can tear through everybody and turn it into a successful career, congratulations you’ve done something not many will be able to do.
The main reason I feel this way is because in my list #3 is pretty much impossible and at the end of the day; the fighters are playing in the UFC’s sandbox. Don’t like it? There are other sandboxes you can go play in. That’s just the reality of it.