The number one goal of a UFC champion should be to hold on to that belt at all costs. If that means fighting “boring” so be it. Better to be a tiresome titleholder and collect the champion’s compensation than to receive the more humble check of an ex-champ.
In his most recent disclosed payday as champion (UFC 263), Israel Adesanya earned $500,000. Bloody Elbow’s sources also note how his current deal actually guarantees him a few million dollars per fight while he holds the belt. It’d be a completely difference case and would fall significantly lower once he loses that title. For instance, Tyron Woodley dropped to a $200,000 base pay after he lost the belt.
Adesanya also gets pay-per-view points, so that’s another chunk of change he would not receive as a non-champ. If Adesanya was on the same standard PPV agreement as the others, he would have earned an additional $600,000 on the reported 600,000 in PPV sales for UFC 263.
In short, if Adesanya put entertaining the fans ahead of winning and he ended up with a loss, he could expect to lose millions per fight. Safe and boring gets a lot more attractive when you look at it in dollars and cents and in prizefighting, and unless the UFC changes its typical pay structure, that’s exactly how a champion should look at it.
If cold, hard cash isn’t enough to dissuade one of the mindset that a UFC champion needs to put the needs of the fans ahead of themselves and their families — which is pretty silly when you consider it in that light — those folks need to look at the other fighter who is inside the octagon with the champ. To overuse a hackneyed phrase, “it takes two to tango.”
In his assessment of the main event of UFC 276, former UFC champion Daniel Cormier, speaking on DC & RC pointed his finger more in the direction of the challenger than the champ when it came to how things worked out on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
“If Jared Cannonier is going to cruise to a loss, how is it Izzy’s responsibility to do more?”
“I thought he fought a good fight,” Cormier added regarding Adesanya. “I thought he was smart. I thought he dominated the fight. He won the fight four rounds to one on both cards and then the other card was five rounds to zero. What more can you want from a guy in defending his championship but winning all the rounds? The problem is, when you become a guy like Israel – and Anderson Silva went through the same thing, Jon Jones went through the same thing – you become so dominant that those dominating performances become a bit lackluster.”
If that’s still not enough to shake one from the belief that entertainment should trump victory when it comes to UFC bouts, there’s also the fact that “safe and boring” could be better for a fighter’s future.
“My guys wanna have kids and they wanna enjoy the rest of their life. And they will get the spectacular knockouts and they will have the spectacular fights, but they will practice the art of hitting and not getting hit,” said Adesanya’s head coach Eugene Bareman.
“And they’ll do that because they wanna live a long, happy, and successful life. And if you don’t believe me, let’s have a look at certain fighters 10 or 15 years from now, and let’s have a look at some of my guys, and the proof will be in the pudding then.”
There are plenty of reasons a champion like Adesanya should put victory above all else. Giving the fans a “fun” fight is not one of those reasons — and it never will be.