Tim Kennedy has been outspoken as of late about UFC fighter pay. But he took his issues with his paycheck a step further this week, telling the GrappleTalk Podcast "It’s pathetic that so many fighters [have to have other jobs]…I’m one of the 3% of guys in the whole entire sport and it would be slim pickings to survive off what I make in fighting."
Kennedy would continue, saying that he has another job because the UFC pays so little. Then, speaking on the idea that UFC fighters are "overpaid," Kennedy said "Anybody who accepts that as a reality of the sport is sad and pathetic. I hope this isn’t the reality of the sport, if it is I should probably go do something else, like empty trash cans. I’d make more money than I do now."
Kennedy made $80,000 to beat Trevor Smith, $54,940 in his loss to Luke Rockhold, $50,000 against Melvin Manhoef. There was a fight with Robbie Lawler during that span where pay wasn't disclosed but it would be a safe bet that it was at least $50,000.
So that's at least $234,940 since 2011 in pay. While those were all fights under the Strikeforce banner, three of the four fights came after Zuffa purchased the promotion. Also, only one of those fights came in 2012 thanks to the way the promotion fell apart.
Near a quarter of a million dollars in a two year span would seem like plenty of money to get by on, right?
Well, Kennedy told GrappleTalk that his salary for UFC 162 breaks down like this:
Kennedy revealed that he was due around $55,000 to show up at UFC 162, with the purse potentially increasing to $70,000 with a win bonus – but that after the expenses of his camp, medicals and fight team, he would only pocket around $20,000, even before taxes. After the interview, Kennedy sent a detailed breakdown of how his fight purse would be divided up: 13% on gym fees, 12% for nutrition, 10% to his manager, 10% to his coach, 8% on his camp lodging, 3% for fight medicals and 3% on equipment. In total, that’s 59% of his fight purse before tax is deducted.
Assuming that breakdown is standard of all of Kennedy's fights since 2011, his $234,940 would be reduced to a little over $95,000 or roughly $47,500 a year...before taxes.
While I can't vouch dollar for dollar, percentage for percentage for Kennedy's numbers. They don't seem far off from what other fighters have said. And should put into perspective what fighters who complain about fighter pay are really talking about.
It's the cost of being a fighter that makes being a fighter so hard. If you don't pay for the best training, management, nutrition..etc., it makes success more unlikely. And the more successful you are, the more it costs to stay at that level. There are simply very few fighters who are able to fight full time, and even many of the ones that are able to fight full time aren't making the kind of money that they can retire on.