UFC fighter pay has always been an area of vehement discussion.
Historically, the UFC has received criticism for fighter pay despite being the largest MMA promotion. 2018 marked the first (and only) time an MMA athlete was on the overall top-10 Forbes list of highest paid athletes — with the #4 spot belonging to Conor McGregor.
UFC president Dana White has been outspoken in the past when questioned about fighter pay. He recently sat down with ESPN MMA to recap 2019 for the UFC, where he addressed finance among the top stars.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto asked, “can you give an idea of what a star in the UFC is capable of making?” To which White replied simply, “it’s crazy money.”
“I think a lot of people would be shocked if you heard what some of these big stars are making. But I don’t ever talk about that. You know, listen, these guys, they know what they make,” White continued.
For White, there is simple mathematics at play: Draw higher viewer numbers and you will be rewarded.
“If you talk to obviously Conor McGregor, and guys like Khabib [Nurmagomedov], that are huge superstars that have an entire country, an entire race or religion of people following them. The numbers is [are] massive,” White said.
White also claimed there is a correlation with increases in revenue and rising fighter pay. “As the sport continues to go like this [points upwards], so does the numbers.”
Based on financial analysis that has been conducted by Bloody Elbow, fighter wage share of event revenue (depicted by the orange line in the graph below) has remained relatively constant over the last 10 years, alongside exponential increases in overall UFC revenue (blue line) — which indicates White’s claim is not necessarily untrue.
However, this does not account for the opportunity cost incurred by other potential financial losses fighters may have suffered.
(Data retrieved from John Nash of Bloody Elbow’s financial analysis)
The 50-year-old executive also suggested that female stars are paid comparatively better than industry standards when compared to their male counterparts in the UFC.
“If you look at what females are paid in other sports compared to the males, and you look at what Amanda Nunes makes here. It’s pretty impressive.”
According to White, the outlook will continue to be positive, as 2019 was the biggest year in the company’s 27-year history. It marked several firsts for the Las Vegas based promotion — which according to White is good news for all the fighters.