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Is Now the Time for a Fighters Union to Regulate Fighter Salaries?


(Will a union help or hinder MMA?)

Looking at the salaries for last month’s Moosin: Gods of Martial Arts event, I couldn’t help but wonder how some fighters make what they do. Although many people are against a fighters union, I’m beginning to think there are merits to forming such a group. The Moosin payouts solidified my opinion.

Here are a few reasons why:

Tim Sylvia: $50,000 def. Mariusz Pudzianowski: $110,000

Now, I get why Pudzianowski gets paid a large amount of money to fight. He’s a freak show. My problem with this is that this was only his third MMA fight and that he lost decisively to Tim Sylvia. Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira made $120,000 (with a $60,000 win bonus) for his win over Jason Brilz. Is Pudz in the same class as Lil’ Nog?

I don’t have a problem with Sylvia making $50,000, especially since he was paid double that for his last UFC fight against Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira at UFC 81. I do take issue with the fact that "The Maine-iac" was paid $800,000 for getting thumped by Fedor at Affliction: Banned, when Emelianenko got $300,000 (not including what M-1 negotiated for themselves).


Roxanne Modafferi: $6,000 (includes $3,000 win bonus) def. Tara LaRosa: $2,500

Remember two years ago when the American Fight League signed Tara Larosa to a "record contract" that would have seen the New Jersey native become the highest paid female fighter IF the promotion didn’t evaporate before she had the chance to fight for them. At the time Larosa pegged her salary somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000 US for the term of the 18-month deal. Fast forward two years and the 32-year-old just cashed a cheque for her back-and-forth Moosin battle with Roxanne Modafferi that barely would have covered her training expenses for the fight, let alone her living expenses.

Just to give you some perspective of the disparity in women’s MMA payouts, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos made $25,000 including a $5,000 win bonus
for beating Gina Carano at Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg. Gina made $125,000. 

Rafael Natal: $14,000 (includes $7,000 win bonus) def. Travis Lutter: $4,000

Sure, you can argue that Lutter’s salary correlates to his recent fight performances, but considering he has been fighting — albeit sporadically — since 1998 and was paid $20,000 for his time in his loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 67 three years ago, $4,000 seems like a bit of a slap in the face for taking punches in the face.

Mike Campbell: $12,000 (includes $6,000 win bonus) def. Yves Edwards: $3,000

Yves Edwards is another guy who should be making a bit more than the minimum paycheck most new fighters are paid by promotions like Strikeforce and UFC. Just a year and a half ago, he received $12,000 and would have gotten an $8,000 win if he

I know Moosin isn’t the cash cow that the UFC is, and I don’t expect them to pay the $3.3 million out in fighter salaries that Affliction (RIP) did for their two shows, but there needs to be a benchmark that recognizes experience and performance.

The NHL Player’s Association has a solid agreement in place with the league that indicates a minimum and a maximum salary that new and veteran fighters can be paid and also has a profit-sharing component that sees the players share  54% of the revenue that teams generate. Now, the UFC and Strikeforce combined don’t make anywhere near the profit margin of an actual sports league with independent owners, but maybe a modified version of the NHLPA’s model would work in MMA.

If you look at recent UFC and Strikeforce events, you’ll notice that the amount of fighter salaries is much less than half of the recorded gate — which doesn’t include pay-per-view revenue.

UFC 114 took in $3,730,125 gate and the fighter salaries totalled $1,371,000, or 37 percent of ticket sales.

Unfortunately, the St. Louis and Tennessee athletic commissions don’t release fighter salaries or show revenues, so the last Strikeforce event we have info on is the Miami show in February. The fighter payouts for that event totalled $469,600 and the live gate was…*gulp* $301,424 or a deficit of $168,000. The Florida commission did report that the promotion was paid $700,000 for a "Broadcast, Television, or Motion Picture rights fee," likely by Showtime, which explains how the company is able to stay afloat. 

Setting minimum and maximum salaries in relation to skill set and years of experience would be a good start, especially since promotions now are arbitrarily setting their own limits and salary levels. Another thing set union-enforced limits would do is prevent bidding wars and back room bonuses. Besides the obvious medical and job protection, a union would make fighters fight because they’re fighters, not because of the size of the paycheck while protecting them from being grossly underpaid. 

———-

Some other interesting event payrolls:

UFC 114

Rashad Evans – $435,000 ($250,000 plus $185,000 win bonus)
defeated Quinton Jackson – $250,000

Michael Bisping – $190,000 ($175,000 plus $15,000 win bonus)
defeated Dan Miller – $15,000

Mike Russow – $24,000 ($12,000 plus $12,000 win bonus)
defeated Todd Duffee – $12,000

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – $120,000 ($80,000 plus $40,000 win bonus)
Jason Brilz – $11,000

John Hathaway – $22,000 ($11,000 plus $11,000 win bonus)
defeated Diego Sanchez – $50,000

Melvin Guillard – $38,000 ($19,000 plus $19,000 win bonus)
defeated Waylon Lowe – $6,000

Dong Hyun Kim – $64,000 ($32,000 plus $32,000 win bonus)
defeated Amir Sadollah – $15,000

Efrain Escudero – $30,000 ($15,000 plus $15,000 win bonus)
defeated Dan Lauzon – $15,000

Cyrille Diabate – $12,000 ($6,000 plus $6,000 win bonus)
defeated Luis Cane – $19,000

Aaron Riley – $20,000 ($10,000 plus $10,000 win bonus)
defeated Joe Brammer – $5,000

Ryan Jensen – $16,000 ($8,000 plus $8,000 win plus)
defeated Jesse Forbes – $6,000
———-

Affliction: Day of Reckoning 

Fedor Emelianenko $300,000 (no win bonus) def. Andre Arlovski $1,500,000 (win bonus would have been $250,000)

Josh Barnett $500,000 (no win bonus) def. Gilbert Yvel $30,000 (win bonus would have been $9,300)

Vitor Belfort $200,000 (includes $80,000 win bonus) def. Matt Lindland $225,000 (win bonus would have been $75,000)

Renato "Babalu" Sobral $90,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus) def. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou $50,000 (win bonus would have been $50,000)

Paul Buentello $90,000 (includes $20,000 win bonus) def. Kiril Sidelnikov $10,000 (win bonus would have been $25,000)

Dan Lauzon $12,000 (no win bonus) def. Bobby Green $4,000 (win bonus would have been $4,000)

Jay Hieron $45,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus) def. Jason High $10,000 (win bonus would have been $5,000)

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira $150,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus) def.

Vladimir Matyushenko $50,000 (win bonus would have been $30,000)

L.C. Davis $14,000 (includes $7,000 win bonus) def. Bao Quach $7,000 (win bonus would have been $6,000)

Albert Rios $6,000 (includes $3,000 win bonus) def. Antonio Duarte $3,000 (win bonus would have been $2,000)

Brett Cooper $10,000 (includes $5,000 win bonus) def. Patrick Speight $2,000 (win bonus would have been $3,000)
———-

Affliction: Banned

Fedor Emelianenko ($300,000/no win bonus) def. Tim Sylvia ($800,000)

Andre Arlovski ($750,000/$250,000 win bonus) def. Ben Rothwell ($250,000)

Josh Barnett ($300,000/no win bonus) def. Pedro Rizzo ($70,000)

Mark Hominick ($10,000/win bonus was $5,000) def. Savant Young ($7,000)

Renato “Babalu” Sobral ($90,000/win bonus was $30,000) def. Mike Whitehead ($50,000)

Matt Lindland ($300,000/win bonus was $75,000) def. Fabio “Negao” Nascimiento ($20,000)

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira ($50,000/no win bonus) def. Edwin Dewees ($15,000)

Mike Pyle ($20,000/win bonus was $5,000) def. J.J. Ambrose ($5,000)

Vitor Belfort ($140,000/win bonus was $70,000) def. Terry Martin ($30,000)

Paul Buentello ($80,000/win bonus was $20,000) def. Gary Goodridge ($25,000)

Justin Levens ($6,000) vs. Ray Lizama ($3,000)*

*Bout did not take place. Total pay was negotiated.
———-

Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg

Cristiane Santos $25,000 (includes $5,000 win bonus) def. Gina Carano $125,000

Gegard Mousasi $2,000 def. Renato Sobral $75,000

Gilbert Melendez $50,000 def. Mitsuhiro Ishida $30,000

Fabricio Werdum $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus) def. Mike Kyle $14,000

Jay Hieron $55,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus) def. Jesse Taylor $12,000

Scott Lighty $4,000 def. Mike Cook $2,500

Justin Wilcox $5,000 (includes $2,500 win bonus) def. David Douglas $5,500

James Terry $6,000 (includes $3,000 win bonus) def. Zak Bucia $2,000

Alex Trevino $3,500 (includes $1,500 win bonus) def. Isaiah Hill $2,000

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ReX13- June 9, 2010 at 8:48 am
Word.
El Famous Burrito- June 9, 2010 at 8:39 am
Sweet! I've never had a chance to try any of it, but I hear good things.

Plus, and reason to go to the store and pick up some beer is good enough for me. I'll send you an email through the forums.
ReX13- June 9, 2010 at 8:31 am
El Famous>> Sounds like a plan to me. My beer store stocks everything from Blvd, including all their Smokestack Series stuff.
El Famous Burrito- June 9, 2010 at 8:19 am
Anytime, my Rexican-American friend-o. When you get to Florida (everyone does, eventually) we can get some beers.

Hey, you live in Kansas, right?

You want to send me something from Boulevard? I'll send you something from Cigar City.
ReX13- June 9, 2010 at 6:49 am
I'm buying a beer for El Famous one day. No, six.

Fuck it, i'm buying a round for everyone. Had no idea there were so many econ majors on CP.
El Famous Burrito- June 9, 2010 at 6:42 am
Holy balls, this is still going strong.

I'm going to leave one last post and back out of here. Feel free to keep going, though, this is a mighty good discussion that makes me proud of Potato Nation.

This is a point that people just aren't going to 100% agree with each other. People that have benfitted from union membership are going to rightly argue in their favor, whereas people that have been burned by them are going to say they're a waste of time. Unions are neither all good nor all bad, just like companies are neither all good nor all bad. You can cherry pick all day and find instances to back up your positions.

Points on which I agree with the Pro-Union side:

-- They clearly and undeniably cleaned up the working environment as the country came through The Industrial Revolution, and made it safer for everyone. No one can even make a sane arguement against that.

-- They remain a good option for mistreated workers in certain areas of life, specifically, factories and jobs that require a large workforce of dangerous, sustained manual labor.

-- The right to organize and deal with management should always be available. Hell, it's in the constitution (free assembly) and should be protected. If worker's want to band together, they should be able to. It's just the American thing to do.


Points on where I agree with the Anti-Union side:

-- The highwater mark of unions was way in the past. We simply don't have a lot of child-ran factories and managment whipping their workforce into working 20 hour days. There are some instances of mistreatment somewhere, I'm sure, but these laws are firmly entrenched in our society. In many cases, a lawyer can provide the same function as a labor union for workers.

-- Unions keep companies from getting rid of unproductive workers, and tolerate an atmosphere of mediocrity. For every unjust firing that unions rightly rescue people from, there is a lazy or incompetant worker that they also protect. It's just the nature of the game, and I just don't agree with it.

-- Big labor unions are big business themselves. Many of the big ones (Teamsters, for example) have large corporate office parks, and CEOs that make big money off the little man's work. In many cases, they have as bad a track record of fraud and corruption as any crooked politician or corporation.


In short, there are benefits and drawbacks to bringing in a union to any industry. I would argue that they would strangle the growth of a newly blossoming sport like MMA, and be less help then they are worth. Certainly, one could make the arguement that the fighters need a collective bargaining agreement. We'll probably never convince each other to switch sides, but it's been a hearty discussion here, friends. I'm glad that we can be serious and goofy on the same site, and still have fun.
Old Skool Fan- June 9, 2010 at 5:32 am
RwilsonR,

You don't provide any arguments to refute my claims. All you say is that so and so was right and I was wrong. Try coming up with something. Let people make up their own minds. Nobody needs a scorekeeper.

The same goes for your criticism of OSHA. Why is it wrong to enforce security standards at the workplace? If you're against that, maybe there is no point arguing with you. BTW, if people are complaining because the government made a belated decision to become responsible and is now cutting their pensions (which were agreed to contractually) they have every right to protest. Sure, they can negotiate a solution, but you can't unilaterally revoke a contractual agreement and then expect the affected party to lie down. Plus, it's not as if cutting pensions is the only way to address a budget shortfall. There are many other ways to do so, including not getting involved in unnecessary wars, closing tax loopholes, cutting wasteful spending, etc. If anyone's irresponsible, it is those who don't uphold their side of the bargain.
fatbellyfrank- June 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm
Wow, lots of well put arguments here, I have been exposed to both types of workforce, as a union delegate when I was working in Ship repair, and individual contract, which I operate under now. I feel I am more than capable of looking after my own interests at contract negotiation time, i prepare my shit and and put forward damn good reasons why i should get the money I get. There are, however, plenty of people who dont feel comfortable enough or due to education, english speaking skills etc, or a full understanding of the situation are unable to negotiate for themselves . These are the workers who require advocacy so they can be assured of fair pay and safe working conditions.
I know not all MMA fighters are the sharpest tools in the shed, but when you embark on this type of career path, your basically working as a subcontractor, and as with any subcontractor, its your responsibility to organise your own tax, health care, retirement scheme etc, I agree that an organisation like UFC should have a minimum fee, UFC say they are the best MMA organisation, they should reflect this in their fight payments.
RwilsonR- June 8, 2010 at 8:19 pm
@ Old Skool fan

You totally missed the point of Cronks argument, and he was not putting words in your mouth, but drawing logical conclusions from the assertions you were making... and doing a very good job of trying to explain to you the problems in your argument.

And you really want to hold up the Social Security Act and OSHA as tremendous accomplishments? If that's the case, then there is no point arguing with you. You will be one of the rock throwers on the picket line as the unions try to burn our country to the ground because someone tries to take away a small portion of your cushy and unsustainable benefits in a belated effort towards responsibilty, like is happening right now in Greece. Stand on you picket line, Old Skool! Fight for irresponsibilty to the bitter end.
bradleythomas- June 8, 2010 at 8:14 pm
I don't think unions belong anywhere. Big name get paid more money period. If a fighter doesn't like what he is being payed... don't fight.
ccman- June 8, 2010 at 6:33 pm
Ok stayed light but dammit: a union neuters agents to a degree. They protect the union, not you. If they gain x% off multiple fighter and that's more than just you, you get fucked.
Next there has NEVER been a union not caught in a scam. By definition today they are corrupt.
Next, no union has not ultimately killed an industry. Look at textile, teamsters, auto worker for examples. The second they quit promising more, you quit payin dues. There is not always more to be had. Once in, they are worse than roaches to lose. It is a slippery slope, and one that eventually quits caring about those they were formed to protect anyway.
Last, if you think sports are immune, I dare you to look at the real nhl work stoppage and the next group in control. Unions are the modern bugy whip..... once needed, now obsolete.

MR. You know better, look at the writers strike and how they got screwed. Fer shame.
ccman- June 8, 2010 at 4:19 pm
Fyi: if you go top to bottom unions biggest contribution to workers is unemployment for making demands beyond a reasonable economic model. In industry it sent jobs overseas, in sports it made most lose money (look at the nba today you think I'm wrong)
Mr_Misanthropy- June 8, 2010 at 4:12 pm
Freedom is an illusion.
ccman- June 8, 2010 at 4:11 pm
Hire decent management and turn off your type a personality. Otherwise win enough or be marketable enough to get paid.

Further proof m-1 sucks, fedors ice personna don't sell, and punching people does not make you smart. Seriously, imagine fedor interviewing like sonnen and his pay scale.

Also PLEASE tell me ufc offered less... liar.
Mr_Misanthropy- June 8, 2010 at 4:10 pm
We're all slaves.
Old Skool Fan- June 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm
El Famous Burrito:

You claim that “Saying unions built this country is true, but that time passed long ago. What have the unions done in, say, the last 70 years or so? Not very much, huh? Shocking.”

Let’s see: How about passage of the Social Security Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (and being vigilant of its enforcement) or helping raise the minimum wage? If you think those bills made it through Congress thanks to the decided action of a few principled legislators then you’re even more clueless than I thought. BTW, you still haven’t proved that the unionized companies I mentioned are in the tank.

On a micro level, let’s see what unions can do for a worker... How about defending their rights, providing legal assistance to members or getting them good benefits? Just so you know, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics and research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers are 52 percent more likely than nonunion workers to have job-provided health care and their wages are on average about 28% higher than nonunion workers. Likewise, nonunion workers are five times more likely to lack health insurance coverage.

Not very much, huh?
Get Off Me- June 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm
@Almost North
My shit was gold.
I really want fighter pay to increase so as every UFC is being paid big bucks, because they are the cream of the crop, hands down, Overeem fight for UFC because he gets paid the most by them, Fedor too etc every top fighter fights for the UFC(or another promotion if one comes along) and when I spend my $60 on a card and my $600 on live events, I am watching the very best, making the big bucks because all they do is train to fight in front of people paying big money to see them.

A refocus for Dana White here, stop trying to expand right now because you don't have the depth of quality in the roster required to do that...5k for a fight, what should I expect? Put a card up and put your money where you mouth is, let me see how much your paying your guy to fight and convince me to pay to see it...I am a big consumer of MMA for the past ten years, the product needs to be stronger and you have to pay for that...so in turn fans like us will pay to watch...UFC97 is a prime example of what happens when you put out sub par product(we went from back to back sold out records to not selling out 113) there is no excuse for the UFC not to have a strong card every time(notwithstanding injury) if they are the big machine they want to be.
Mr_Misanthropy- June 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm
Aside from all of these various arguments about whose system of bureaucracy is the most proper or efficient, I believe the fundamental question lies with how people take responsibility for the course of their own lives. Personally, I am always looking for the way to have maximum control over my own resources, my own output and my own problems. As soon as you decide to sign responsibility for what should be your own choices and considerations over to another party you are already weaker, how and by whom these aspects of your existence are handled is really secondary. It bothers me that so many people desire to relinquish control of many aspects of their lives to outside agencies simply because they are complacent, lazy, uninterested or desire a false sense of security. You are the one with the most vested interest in seeing yourself survive and prosper (or you should be). As soon as you seek the comforts of a paternal protector figure you have already lost your way and merely become food for parasites and predators.
Old Skool Fan- June 8, 2010 at 3:41 pm
Cronks:

You are putting words in my mouth and then refuting my alleged claims. I’m not the one who determines the compensation is unfair because that’s a subjective opinion. All I’m saying is that if the fighter thinks it’s unfair, he can do a number of things in order to negotiate a better deal. One of them is forming a union. Your simplistic assertion that economic actors only make rational decisions (which modern economic theory has also disproven) and hence fighters are signing the dotted line because they are happy with their contract is absurd. Cashiers at Wal-Mart didn’t weigh their options and then decide to go into the retail industry after realizing that med school was not their thing. In all likelihood, they didn’t have an option and they had to settle for a shitty job with a shitty salary at a shitty company. Many fighters are accepting one-sided deals because they have no option, not because they think it’s necessarily best for them. It’s simply the only thing they can do if they want to be professional fighters: Survive a shitty, one-sided contract and hope your performances are good enough that you can negotiate a more decent deal eventually. If they had the option of joining a powerful fighter’s union, then it’s very likely that they would become members just like thousands of other professional athletes. You talk as if your theories were actual laws of nature that can’t be questioned but the very existence of unions refutes your claims.

“You do not have a RIGHT to be a doctor. You do not have a RIGHT to be a computer technician. Similarly, nobody has a RIGHT to be a well-paid professional fighter.”

I never said you did. Stick to my arguments.

“If your job isn't paying you what you deem to be a fair wage, you find a different one. Fighters are no exception.”

Or, if you have the option to negotiate or bargain collectively, you do that and it’s your legal right to do so.

“If you're not aware, this is referred to as the "labor theory of value" and it was the crux behind Karl Marx's economic theories.”

No, it’s not and, btw, Marx wasn’t the only one who came up with a variation of a labor theory of value (Adam Smith being one such case). Workers do take the risk with the company. When a business goes under, they are fired. If not, just ask the fighters that were screwed by Bodog or the IFL.

“The worker is entitled to the wage that they negotiate with their employer regardless of how well/poorly the firm is doing.”

Yes, and one of the elements you consider when negotiating a salary is the company’s profitability, its ability to pay you more, and how much you bring to the table.

“However, don't misunderstand me; I have no problem with fighters voluntarily coming together for collective bargaining. I don't think it's practical nor do I think it would lead to good results for MMA as a whole, but it's not my decision to make.”

I never said you did. All I said is that I disagree with your assessment as to why fighters sign shitty contracts and that I believe a union would help them negotiate better deals, not to mention all the other important things that come with a union membership that people here seem to ignore, including the ability to negotiate for health insurance as well as enjoying protection from unfair labor practices and the right to third-party arbitration.
dranokills- June 8, 2010 at 3:34 pm
ReX13 Says:
Tue, 06/08/2010 - 23:41

drano>>if you think the music references are scary, you should see pictures of my 80's hair.

You do NOT want to see pictures of my 80's hair. A rat tail was involved.

Hey, fuck you guys, stop laughing.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ohh hell, now everyones gonna call you sexy-rexy. I bet you had that mullet thang going to huh? all bidniz in da front and Pawwwwty in the back , baby!
I can just see you dancing your heart out to ; " My girl wants to party all the time, party all the time party all the tttiimmmmeeeeee!"
Almost North- June 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm
Athletic unions in America have nothing in common with all your silly relative's/friend's/guy-you-met-at-the-bar's trade unions. Don't make silly arguments......actually you know what? Everyone on both sides of this keep spouting silly voodoo economics propaganda. Disappointed in you today CP.
benfranklin- June 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm
Sorry @UncleMike...it could be that my 56k connection blows as well...this might be one of the best topics to hit the CP...maybe we can save up from the CPC 420 Local to buy some new servers

By the way how can I get a Rex13 gig? I can do op/ed and I've even been on the same radio station talking mma that frank mir threatened death to brock

WAR TATER NATION!
Joedirt- June 8, 2010 at 3:21 pm
Cronks I bet there are UFC fighters "starving"
Some only fight once or twice a year (if they are lucky enough to make it to the TV lineup) and unless their sponsors cough up the $100 grand to the UFC JUST for the right to sponsor... then they aren't making much sponsor cash either. Most fighters also have full time jobs.
Cronks- June 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm
To be fair, Pat Berry was subsisting on rice and ketchup BEFORE his first UFC fight; it was the UFC that put a massive amount of money into his pocket so he could escape debt and begin building wealth. Between fighter pay, sponsorships, and additional opportunities by being able to market yourself as a "UFC Fighter", I highly doubt that anybody signed by the UFC is starving.
Savageleto- June 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm
It certainly needs a re-framing to be more useful to Today's world...

If we want a future at all, we have to move past our current paradigms.

However what Unions have done or in your words "not done" for the last more like 20 years not 70... is act as a parachute on a top fuel dragster, in terms of keeping the haves a bit closer then the have not's.

The wear and tear on the parachute is more like grounds for re-fabricating, and updating a useful machine (Unions).. not declaring them all villains and trying to toss our lot's in with the HAVES...

The "Have" union is one you need to be Born into...

They will not have you unless they have you picking weeds in their flower beds.

---

As for a MMA Fighters union.. I think they need to have something...

If you have made it to the big show... (UFC) ... you should be able to afford more then Rice with ketchup packets before a big fight..

A Fighters Union should also be used to teach some of these guys how to invest their money wisely and put it away for future use.
CagePotatoMMA