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In MMA, It’s Still Better (Financially) To Be Famous Than Good


(Photo courtesy of Esther Lin.)

It’s a fact of life in the world of MMA: when it comes to getting big paydays in a hurry, fame trumps skill every time. We saw it with Kimbo Slice, who made half a million to dollars to lose to a mid-level fighter in the weight class below him. We saw it with Brock Lesnar, who debuted in the UFC with just one pro fight to his credit and made $250,000 in guaranteed show money. But we also see it in small ways, such as Kim Couture’s $10,000 take for her losing effort in Strikeforce Challengers last Friday. By comparison, Kerry Vera, who starched Couture in the first round, made four grand to show and another four to win. Main eventer Tyrone Woodley made $3,500 and $3,500. His losing counterpart in that bout? He took home just $2,500.

So how is it that a 1-2 fighter who has yet to prove that she has the skills to warrant an appearance on TV can pocket the biggest check of the night on a card that features several more experienced up-and-comers? Simple. She shares a famous person’s last name, which makes her kind of famous. Sort of.


It’s depressing, when you think about it. The people who want to do this, and only this with their lives, they don’t typically have the time or the means to get famous before they start fighting. That’s why they have to fight for puny sums just to prove themselves, and even then the bumps in pay come incrementally at first. And yet someone with a recognizable name, for whatever reason, can jump into the cage and get paid like a veteran despite having the skills of a novice.

In no other sport does this happen. Herschel Walker couldn’t decide to become a pro tennis player and instantly get paid like Andy Roddick in his first match. He couldn’t just make up his mind to join the ATP in his forties, citing some country club tournaments he won, and get the same money the veterans of the tour do.

And yet, we can probably assume that Walker (0-0) is not going to make less than a grand to show in his Strikeforce debut, like most guys in their first pro fight. He’ll probably even beat Woodley’s $3,500 show money, and Couture’s too. Something about fighting makes it more intriguing when famous people do it, and that intrigue adds up to money. It makes sense, in a way. If Walker turned out to be terrible at tennis, it would make for a laughable match that gets boring inside of five minutes. If he’s terrible at MMA, he’ll get physically beat up in a bout that probably won’t last five minutes.  People will pay to see humiliation when it’s lumped with pain.

Still, if I’m Woodley or Rudy Bears or any of the other fighters on the Strikeforce card who got paid like part-time help, I’m not sure the logic of the situation would offer me any comfort as I prepared myself another dinner of hamburger helper.  It might just piss me off more, and it might make me want to take out my frustrations on one of these celebrities when they’re finally forced to fight someone.

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Koeikan- November 25, 2009 at 10:22 am
LOL... I think I'll pass. Some things can't be unseen, and I'd worry about the google results on that one.
J-Dog- November 25, 2009 at 9:10 am
@Koeikan:
I wonder if Dustin Diamond got paid more in his debut porno performance than War Machine did. "Saved by the Smell". Look it up.
agentsmith- November 25, 2009 at 6:58 am
See also: Phil Baroni.
reddog- November 24, 2009 at 11:20 pm
@tyler

hey faggot, this isnt the disney site. no one gives a fuck about the correct spelling for that teenage attention whore. also, no one cares about that mullet wearing yahoo dad
TylerDyrden- November 24, 2009 at 9:09 pm
hey buddy if you're gonna say you hate someone, spell their name right so that people don't think (know) you're ignorant....

Miley Cyrus....as in Billy Ray Cyrus
shitbag- November 24, 2009 at 7:49 pm
I fucking hate Miley Sirus, why cant she fight and get beat up?

Kim Couture will probably be looking for a rebound bout...
rockhuddy- November 24, 2009 at 7:09 pm
I don't have a problem with this. People are paid based on how much money they can make for the company hiring them, plain and simple. It might not seem fair to up and comers scratching out a living, but it's business 101.
Sabado Gigante- November 24, 2009 at 6:27 pm
PS: I predict that Tyrone Woodley will get his sooner rather than later... When that happens, I hope he gets "sugar free" to be his maid... This dude has shloads of potential...
Sabado Gigante- November 24, 2009 at 6:23 pm
Yeah, people paid to see Jose Canseco get his ass handed to him by Danny Bonadeuchy in that celebrity boxing thing... Sad
Sneaky Pete- November 24, 2009 at 6:08 pm
And it never hurts to have a smoking body. Think about it. If you're a female, and you have an exquisite physique, you can attract a Randy Couture or a Vera to train you and lend you their last name to help you along.
Krazy Kracker- November 24, 2009 at 5:28 pm
Every weekend back in high school it was off to the expo centers or college fight nights for me. It was a guaranteed $50 to even step in the cage/ring. If you did well you could get about $200 or so. Yes, that's a "back in my day story" and I'm not even 30. I bet Kim wipes her dirty gold-digging snatch with that kind of money though. I think you're wrong about her not paying her dues. She has put in a lot of hours on her back and on her knees to get rich and famous, though. You can't just decide to fuck Randy one day and do it. You have to hit the stairmaster, master an eating disorder and persistantly stalk him to calender his gym habits so it will be "What a coincidence!" Speaking of... why is her last name still Couture? Didn't she get dumped? Shouldn't it be Kim "that chick Randy used to ground and pound" Whateverthefucklastname?
skeletor- November 24, 2009 at 5:27 pm
Yeah Ben's! Thanks for bringing this to light I don't think anybody would have figured this out on there own. Alright I'm done being a dick sorry. But I don't think Kim Couture really draws that many more fans because of her last name. Most people watch woman's MMA for two reasons. One if the chick is smoking hot (Gina), this meaning she doesn't even have to be all that skilled. Or two if the bitch can fight like a dude (Cyborg), in this case they don't have to be very attractive. Couture is neither hot nor can she fight, so after about one round of seeing that shit most people will tune out after a couple of minutes. $10,000 is way to much to be paying that no talent ugly bitch.
James- November 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm
It's pretty pathetic how Kim Couture is hanging on to her last name despite being divorced.
provrorsbarn- November 24, 2009 at 4:51 pm
Isnt it like this in EVERY sport?
Koeikan- November 24, 2009 at 4:50 pm
Happens in boxing too, to a lesser extent. Also has happened in Baseball, but much rarer.

It is certainly a factor in other sports, but it affects the sponsorship money much, much, much more than their base pay. In other sports, the team is the draw. With MMA, it's more about the individual...

That being said, the model more closely resembles that of an entertainer (IE: musician / actor). You can see the impact of supply/demand and the draw of the person affect their pay rate directly (even if they may not be as skilled/experienced as another performer).

Comedians are another example. Think about Dustin Diamond. He's more famous than a number of other comedians. Sure, he may not nearly as funny as many [any] other comics (less skilled fighter) and he hasn't been doing it as long as many other comedians (less experience). However, because of his name, when he crossed over from TV.... he's able to get more money from club promoters (fight promoters) over those other comedians (the seasoned veterans) because he recognizable as being Screech. I see this as basically a parallel to Couture...except Screech isn't clinging to an ex's last name.
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