Patricio Freire is Bellator's featherweight world champion, a 25-fight veteran that has lost only two times in his career, a real stud and one of the top-five featherweights in the world. Yet, he lacks something that all of his fellow top-145 pounders like Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar possess: the big money. Show and win money aside, these fighters have made a fortune out of performance-based bonuses, Edgar alone received nine of them, Aldo six - each worth not less than 40,000 Dollars.
Freire had his share of memorable fights, brutal knockouts and great performances as well. Yet, he his not anywhere near the payroll of the Aldos and Edgars in the this business.
"I'm a world champion, and yet I needed 13 fights in the organization to be able to buy my own house and make some small investments," Freire (23-2 MMA, 11-2 BMMA) said. "After 11 fights, I was able to make a proper training place for my team and bring my brother back. Until March of last year, the Pitbull Brothers team - including me - trained in a very small room. We lacked everything. [...] As you may know, we lose over 30 percent of what we get in taxes every fight. Then we have to pay management fees, gym fees and several other daily needs and things necessary to fulfill our training camps. If Bellator instituted fight-night bonuses, I could probably be a millionaire in Brazil. I would have made my gym, bought my house and several other things a long time ago."
Freire also mentions his brother Patricky, a long-time Bellator fighter himself, who scored five spectacular knockout finishes in the organization and still has been "broke" for a long stretch of time. "Imagine if he was in the UFC back then, how much money he would have made", Freire says. "Imagine what kind of fighter and record he would have if he had gotten that extra financial help."
Not only would performance-based bonuses benefit the fighters. Freire feels they could also be an important asset for Bellator in the steady ongoing battle for the world's top talent. Especially with the UFC's new Reebok endorsement deal, that leaves a nasty taste in many fighter's mouths, Bellator could be a viable alternative - but only if they can compete with the money, the UFC has to offer for outstanding performances.
"When his contract is up, a fighter can consider going to Bellator if his sponsorship money isn't good in the UFC because Bellator gives you liberty toward your sponsors. But if this fighter is a multiple bonus winner, just the possibility of landing other sponsors won't be enough to bring him here. [...] If Bellator can pay fighters the same as the UFC does, give them the opportunity to win fight-night bonuses and the freedom to choose who their sponsors are, it's easy to see they can change the sport as we know it. The possibility of acquiring new talent will be at least equal. People talk about me vs. Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar. These fights could happen in the Bellator cage if Bellator shows itself attractive enough for them to come over when their contracts are up."
(Transcription via MMAJunikie.com)
Freire predicts, a performance-based bonus system would result in an "influx from UFC fighters" to Bellator, that only stayed in the UFC, because they were hoping for a big payout one day. "Scott Coker said they can sign any free agent in the market", Freire says. "So why not start investing in the roster they already have and making the promotion attractive for fighters outside?