The Fight Business: A Comparison of the Major MMA Promotions

Before a Florida bill dropped that disallows access to these records, John S. Nash was able to procure various revenue details and payout records from every major MMA promotion that hosted shows in the state for the past few years.

Yesterday, July 1st, marked the first day that the provisions in Florida bill HB 775 took effect. (A summary of HB 775 can be found here.)  If you had read an earlier post I did on the contents of the bill, when it was known as HB 808, and Zuffa's lobbying efforts to see it pass, you would know that it "provides a public-records exemption for a promoter's proprietary business information."

In the past, thanks to Florida's Sunshine Laws, the information a promoter was required to give to the state, such as tickets sold, souvenir and concession sales, or fighter bout agreements, were made available to the public upon request. That is no longer the case now, as all of that is considered proprietary confidential business information. For boxers this change in policy may not make much of a difference for current Federal statutes require a boxing promoter to make financial disclosure to his athletes. But for us fans, and much more importantly for many MMA fighters and their managers, Florida was one of the few states that allowed for a glimpse into the revenue sources a promoter was collecting on an event.

Knowing that this information would no longer be made available I contacted the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation last week and requested everything from the past few years for the major MMA promotions and a few boxing events as well. Graciously, they complied wth my request for the bout agreements, which details the fighters' purses, and the post-event tax returns, which includes the television revenue, tickets sales, and souvenir and concession sales reported by the promoter.

Of course, while these numbers give us a glimpse into an event's business it doesn't paint a complete financial picture. They don't include all the sources of revenue for a promoter, such as foreign television sales, sponsorship deals, or rebroadcast rights. Nor, outside of taxes and fighter payouts, does it mention the costs for a promoter, which in the case of the UFC and WSOF shows includes their own television productions in addition to the marketing and other live event production costs that all promoters incur. The fighters purses are also incomplete, not including the UFC's bonus awards ($160,000 total officially awarded at UFC on FX 3 and $200,000 total for UFC on FOX 11), nor charitable donations (a six figure amount in lieu of purse for Herschel Walker at Strikeforce: Miami) nor other potential bonuses (signing bonuses, discretionary, etc).

Even with these admitted holes they provide a better picture of the fight business then what we'd have without them. With that in mind here is a summary of the finances for several major MMA events that were held in Florida over the last couple years by the UFC, WSOF, and Bellator (along with a Strikeforce event from 2011, a Top Rank/HBO boxing, and a pair of Golden Boy Live cards for the sake of comparisons).

For each event I list :

The gross amount paid for sale or lease of broadcasting, television or motion pictures rights, less any state or federal taxes.

Gross amount received for tickets sold, less any state or federal taxes.

Gross amount received by promoter or concessionaire from sales of souvenrs, programs & concessions, less any state or federal taxes.

Total amount of contracted fighter pay for the event (including win bonuses).

Links to a pdf of the source document can be found in heading of each column.

UFC on FX 3, June 8, 2012

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

$1,290,323

310,475.63

0*

$423,500

* According to the post-event tax report this was paid by a third party and therefore no amount is given for the gross amount of sales by the promoter. From the Florida DBPR:

An audit completed by DBPR found that in some instances there were weaknesses in the post-event tax collection process on behalf of the Florida State Boxing Commission (FSBC). As a result, I am unable to provide you with tax information regarding concessions for the UFC's June 2012 event. At this time, all other information you requested is available and attached.

UFC on FOX 11, April 19, 2014

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

$2,272,000

$1,553,737.50

$522,383.35

$974,000

Bellator 72 July 20, 2012

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

$35,000

$54,686.76

$2,758.52

$252,750

Bellator 80 November 9. 2012

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

$35,000

$38.372.36

$1,472.78

$214,000

Bellator 94 March 28, 2013

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

$112,973

$74,356.00

$5,926.22

$216,500

WSOF 6, October 26, 2013

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

0**

$30,611.96

0

$278,000

** A letter from NBC Sports addressed to Andy Foster of the California State Athletic Commission details the broadcast agrement between the network and World Series of Fighting:

Per the request of the Executive officer of the California Athletic Commission, this letter confirms that NBC Sports Network and World Series of Fighting have a signed TV Network Barter agreement for $0 ending in 2015.

WSOF 8, January 18, 2014

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

0**

$61,437

0

$257,000

Strikeforce: Miami, January  30, 2010

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

$700,000

$301,424.60

$8,003

$469,600

Top Rank Boxing: Cotto Vs Rodriguez on HBO, October 5, 2013

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

$800,000***

$561,697.60

$341,131.01

$2,514,700

***No amount for the broadcast, television or motion picture rights is given, although $40,000, the maximum tax, has been entered as the paid tax. This would represent a broadcast or television fee from HBO of no less than $800,000 (5% of which is $40,000) but I've been told that a license fee for as much as $3 million would not be surprising for such a card.

Golden Boy Live: Charlo-Rodriguez,  October 14, 2013

Broadcast, Television

Tickets

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

$22,500

$16,056.48

$35,575.34

$63.500

Golden Boy Live: Tarver-Sheppard, November 26, 2013

Broadcast, Television

Ticket

Souvenirs, Programs, Concessions

Payout

$22,500

$36,632

0

$94,650

With HB 775 now in effect it might be some time before we have such transparency with regards to what a promoter is bringing in for an event.

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