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Make the UFC Fighter Pie Higher, Dana White

Photo by <a href="" target="new">Tracy Lee</a> via <a href="">Cage Writer</a>
Photo by Tracy Lee via Cage Writer

Ben Fowlkes has an important piece talking about Leonard Garcia and how he spent his first big MMA paycheck, a $35,000 Fight of the Night bonus for his 2007 war with Roger Huerta:

"I just blew through that money real fast," Garcia said. "Coming from being in the smaller shows and then getting all that money all at once, it seemed like it was never going to run out. I just rode it into the dirt."

He did do some good things with the money before it was all gone, like helping his mother pay off her car. He also traded in his own ride and got a Corvette - a car that's now, three years later, finally close to being paid off.

Then there were the days where he walked out of the mall loaded down with shopping bags, convinced that this lavish lifestyle would last forever.

"I had a different pair of sunglasses for every day of the week there for a little while," said Garcia. "I just thought the money was never going to run out because I had gotten it all in one big chunk. I learned real fast that it does run out and you need to learn how to manage it. I learned a lot from that one bonus."

Garcia has learned from his early mistakes:

"I try and look at when my next fight is going to be and then add three months to it, just in case something happens," he said. "Right now, my next fight is supposed to be in September, so I have to plan to pay all my bills up until November or December."

When he pocketed an extra $65,000 bonus for his "Fight of the Night" performance against Chan Sung Jung at the WEC's first pay-per-view event in April, Garcia made sure not to make the same mistakes that depleted his first Zuffa bonus check.

No fancy cars or shopping sprees this time. Instead he opened a three-year CD, renovated the bathrooms in his house, and began looking into an IRA.

The real importance of this story is that all MMA fighters, even the ones like Garcia who fight for the top promotions, live a feast or famine existence. 

Managing large amounts of money is a very difficult hurdle for many fighters, one few are lucky enough to have to try and clear.

If you enjoy watching great athletes compete at MMA, it's in your own best interest as a fan for that career to be as financially rewarding as possible. Right now MMA fighters are dramatically under-compensated as a % of the overall revenue of big events like UFC 114.  

As our own Micheal Rome wrote when analyzing the numbers from UFC 104:

I've done a lot of research into sports overhead, my guess is the UFC is probably spending between $3 and $4 million in overhead costs for the average event not including salaries.

They spend $500,000 on the countdown show, a six figure fee for the arena, between 500 and a million to broadcast in-house, then you have a very high cost of hotels and flights for all their staff and all the fighters, and finally all the money they spend on ad spots.

This is ignoring all the salaries they pay to staff and such, going to assume those as year-end expenses and not event-specific expenses.

My overall guess ahead of time here is they bring in about 12-13 million and spend 5 including salaries and bonuses. It's a very healthy margin.

In that same post he estimated the UFC keeps 90% of the revenue and the fighters get 10%:

That's roughly half of the entertainment and mainstream sports rule of thumb of 20% of revenue to "talent".

Zuffa may, or may not, be investing that money wisely in efforts to build the sport world wide and get it regulated in the big markets like New York and Ontario, but ultimately that does fighters at the end of their careers, like Jens Pulver no good.

Fans need to realize that what is best for the fighters is what's best for the sport and the fans. Not what's best for Dana White's bottom line.

Note: The headline refers to one of my favorite bits of wisdom from President George W. Bush. 

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