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Why Eliminating Fight Night Bonuses Could Benefit All UFC Fighters

(Would veteran bonus-grabbers like Joe Lauzon [right] give up their extra cash to help the little guy? / Photo via Getty)

By Trent Reinsmith

After almost every UFC event, the UFC will hold a post-fight press conference. One of the first things mentioned at these get-togethers are the winners of the Fight Night Bonuses. These $50,000 pay-bumps are (usually) handed out to four fighters per event: Two combatants take home Performance of the Night awards, and the individuals that were deemed to have the best fight on the card take home Fight of the Night.

Performance bonuses are a nice little perk that the UFC hands out. However, much like that fuzzy block of cheese in the back of the refrigerator, they may have reached their expiration date.

On a recent edition of the Co-Main Event Podcast, host Chad Dundas suggested that the UFC do away with Fight Night bonuses, and instead use those funds to provide a monthly stipend to every fighter on the UFC roster. Not only is this a good idea, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the right time for the UFC to do it.

The last time a proposal such as this was floated, it was UFC president Dana White that offered up the suggestion. Ignoring the fact that the majority of the 500 plus fighters on the UFC roster are underpaid as professional athletes, White puffed out his chest, and focused on “the lower level guys,” telling the Las Vegas Sun, “(Expletive) yeah, it could happen (doing away with Fight Night bonuses). That’s what I’m thinking about doing. All the (expletive) lower-level guys think they need their money boosted. Everyone thinks it’s not enough money, so that’s easy to do.”

It was not surprising that many UFC fighters balked at the idea as presented by the bombastic UFC chieftain, and White gladly returned to the status quo.

It was a predictable outcome because it pitted UFC newcomers against long tenured and established fighters. White used a basic dirty management style when he floated the idea, pitting the two factions against each other. Since the UFC veterans outnumber the promotional newbies it was a foregone conclusion that the idea would fail to gain traction.

Dundas’s idea, unlike White’s, shares the wealth across the entire roster, a much easier sell.

Doing the math on the 47 fight cards the UFC scheduled for 2014, the Fight Night bonus budget is a healthy $9.4 million. If you divide that equally across the approximately 500 fighters on the UFC roster, that equals almost $19,000 per fighter over the course of a year. The salary is the equivalent of a $9 an hour full-time job. Not great, but it’s better than nothing, and it would be guaranteed income as long as the fighter remained an active part of the UFC roster.

If you make that a weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly paycheck, it becomes even more attractive for the fighters. That stipend would help cover some of the expenses a full time professional mixed martial artist incurs.

If you think those expenses are insubstantial, I point you to the comments of John Cholish and Tim Kennedy, who both broke down the huge costs associated with being a professional fighter. For Cholish, a fight night purse of $8,000 amounted to an estimated loss of $6,000 for the fight he broke down. Meanwhile, Kennedy revealed that approximately 59 percent of his pre-tax fight earnings are earmarked for somewhere other than his bank account. A monthly stipend, generated by the Fight Night bonuses that benefit a lucky and arbitrarily chosen few, would clearly benefit each and every fighter on the UFC roster.

As an added bonus of this stipend, fighters would not be forced to accept the crumbs offered by some sponsors. In fact, if fighters weren’t so desperate for any amount of  sponsorship money they could be pickier about the sponsors they represent, and the cost of sponsorship may actually rise over time.

The much discussed, but never publically disclosed locker room bonuses would remain in effect in this scenario. Well, that is to say it would remain in effect barring any vindictive moves from the UFC.

There’s no doubt that some fighters will still balk at this idea; Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone immediately come to mind. However, the fact is that sometimes the individual has to take a small hit to serve the greater good. It may be a tough pill to swallow for some, but it’s a pill that will serve the sport and those who are trying to make living inside the Octagon in the present, as well as the future.

Previously: Dana White Defends UFC Fighter Pay (Again), While Struggling New Fighters Are Forced to Crowdfund

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