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And Now He’s Retired: UFC Lightweight John Cholish Hangs Up the Gloves Over Low Pay


Cholish estimates that after training costs, his paycheck from last night’s fight wasn’t enough to break even. Photo courtesy of his Twitter page.

No matter how gloriously cheesy the TapouT commercials try to make it look, life as a fighter is far from easy. Training full-time is extremely taxing on your body, promoters and fellow fighters alike can be shady, unpleasant individuals, sponsors try to stiff you, and because the pay involved is so low for most fighters, it’s all essentially just for the glory of saying you’re better at a sport than the guy across from you.

That’s why – in many ways – it should come as little surprise that UFC Lightweight also-ran John Cholish is walking away from the sport after his loss to Gleison Tibau during last night’s UFC on FX 8.

If you find yourself wondering who John Cholish is, you’re far from alone. After compiling a 7-1 record in the minor leagues – including a victory on the undercard of Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva – the Renzo Gracie product made his UFC debut at UFC 140, where he defeated Mitch Clarke by second round TKO.  This would be the final victory of his career, as Cholish would then drop a decision to Danny Castillo during the UFC on FOX 3 undercard, lose to Gleison Tibau last night and retire from the sport. Another small fish in a big pond, whose career barely made a splash.

Perhaps fittingly, Cholish’s retirement may very well end up being the most significant part of his career. Cholish – who announced his intent to retire on Twitter shortly before the his fight – made it clear while speaking with MMAJunkie.com that the low paychecks that fighters in his position earn were his primary motivation for hanging up the gloves. Via MMAJunkie:

“I’m fortunate enough that I have a job that provides for me really well,” Cholish said. “I give a lot of these guys credit that fight at this level. I think they could be compensated much better based on the income that the UFC takes in. Fortunately, I can just walk away and I’m OK with it. By no means do I mean it disrespectfully toward any other fighters because I think they do a great job. But hopefully Zuffa and the UFC will start paying them a little better.”

By the way, this job he’s referring to? Yeah, he’s a full-time energy trader on Wall Street. I know, I feel worthless now, too.

Don’t assume that the “low paychecks” he’s complaining about are simply “low for a guy who works on Wall Street.” While the amount of money that Cholish made for his losing efforts to Castillo and Tibau haven’t been disclosed, we do know that he only made $8,000 for his lone UFC victory. It’s doubtful that he earned more than that last night: Cholish estimates that after travel expenses and training costs, he lost money by competing in Brazil.

“At the end of the day, it’s hard,” he said. “I have great coaches that take time off and travel. They deserve money, as well. To be completely honest, on a fight like this, I’m losing money to come down here. Flights, hotel rooms, food – and that doesn’t even cover the cost of the time I have to pay for my coaches for training. It’s funny because people talk about the fighters, but at the same time there’s camps and coaches behind the fighters that you don’t even see. So if a fighter is having a tough time making ends meet, how do you think his coaches are doing?”

So what does Cholish offer up as a solution? The obvious answer, of course, is the formation of a fighters union. However, Cholish isn’t stupid. Because he still intends on training regularly and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of coming out of retirement (who actually does?), he says “form a union” in the most careful, “I’m not saying I’m just saying” manner possible.

“I don’t know if there is one significant answer,” he said. “And again, this is just my opinion, so there’s no right or wrong. It’s hard because you have top-level guys like Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva that have started off where we started and worked really hard to get there. So is it right for them to have to give up what they did to try and sacrifice for the greater good? It’s an individual sport, at the end of the day. It’s not like you have a whole team that can kind of step away, like in baseball, when the first union started. Only time will tell. (Zuffa is) a private company. Maybe when it goes public at one point?

I know the Zuffa higher-ups probably aren’t happy with what I’m saying, but I’d like to think I can speak for the lower portion of fighters. A lot of guys I’m sure would love to say the same thing but aren’t in a position where they have another source of income.”

Enjoy your retirement, John. You made the most out of your time in the sport, despite never making much money from it.

@SethFalvo

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Pen Fifteen- May 20, 2013 at 11:10 am
Totally agree with Cholish, but there is something deeply ironic about a guy who makes a comfortable living in working in financial markets advocating for a union.
amsterdamheavy- May 20, 2013 at 6:08 am
These bottom rung guys should be getting like $20K instead of $8k to show; $16k anyway, and maybe another 8K incentive in bonuses.

This way, 3 wins in a year might be enough for disclosed bonuses to be above the poverty line.
algiersheadkick504- May 19, 2013 at 6:50 pm
Give me brandons number!!!!
algiersheadkick504- May 19, 2013 at 5:56 pm
Yeah but on the same tolken yu can ko or sub someone or go to war and make 50,000 :/
SquidInk- May 19, 2013 at 5:05 pm
If you're anything but an upper-tier superstar, Dana White will scam the living shit out of you pay-wise. Meanwhile, he and the Fertitas are making crazy money.
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