(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:
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – $120,000 ($80,000 plus $40,000 win bonus)
Jason Brilz – $11,000
Melvin Guillard – $38,000 ($19,000 plus $19,000 win bonus)
defeated Waylon Lowe – $6,000
Cyrille Diabate – $12,000 ($6,000 plus $6,000 win bonus)
defeated Luis Cane – $19,000
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)
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)
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)
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
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