When talk about UFC fighter pay and revenue splits comes up, few points are as regularly debated as the legendary ‘locker room bonuses’ of the ZUFFA era. Documents have revealed that Lyoto Machida earned $100,000 for each KO/TKO or submission win he racked up—at least in one iteration of his UFC contract. And reports are that Frank Mir got an extra $1,000,000 for his second bout with Brock Lesnar, at UFC 100.
And while those cases may be extreme, in the final day of class certification hearings for the UFC antitrust lawsuits, former UFC matchmaker Joe Silva revealed a more workaday scale and approach to just how the UFC handed out their extra cash. According Silva’s testimony, he maintained a large amount of autonomy under the promotion’s ZUFFA ownership. And after events, he’d bring a list of bonus recommendations to Dana White and the Fertittas—fighters he believed deserved something extra after their latest performance.
“Now, there was other bonuses, too, that were not discussed that were not fight of the night,” Silva told the court on September 23rd (transcript via Forbes). “And that’s what I believe this chart references, that for a long period of time what would happen is after a show would end – the next day, for Monday – I would summarize the card to Dana, Lorenzo, Sean. And I’d say, here’s what happened in every fight, and here’s money that’s not knockout of the night or fight of the night, here’s extra bonuses that I think these guys are worth. And I would make suggestions: this guy lost, but it was a good fight, he did that, I think he should get 3,000 extra; I think that that guy should get 10,000 extra. And I’d go down the whole card.
“Then Dana and Lorenzo would look at that, and they would decide did they agree with me. Do they want to give more or do they want to give less. But that had nothing to do with knockout of the night or performance of the night, that was different bonuses.”
Silva also talked about his rational behind contract structuring, why some fighters would get a better offers from the UFC than others. As well as the restructuring of the ‘of the night’ bonus system, which had formerly been on a sliding scale depending on the size of the event.
“There was a time where a bonus amount was different from show to show based on how big the show was,” Silva testified. “But that caused a problem, which I solved, where it was just like, well, your people, maybe they’re not the highest ranked guy, but they’re very exciting, and they get bonuses, and he doesn’t want to go out and fight on this small show, because lesser bonuses, and he’s a bonus machine. So to avoid people wanting to skip shows because the bonuses are different, it’s like let’s just make them all standard for all the shows.”
This is just the latest round of details, as to the inner-workings of the UFC, to come out of the ongoing class action lawsuit against the promotion. Because of the discovery process, and testimony from UFC employees, fans now have a clearer picture of the longterm financial success of the promotion, the costs that go into promoting individual events, and the details of the UFC’s PPV business. With no clear end to the lawsuit in sight, no doubt there’s even more information yet to come.