Search icon


12th Sep 2017

UFC salary system is doing exactly the opposite of its intended purpose


Ben Kiely


Is it time for the UFC to reassess how their fighters are paid?

Aside from those rare superstars like Conor McGregor and *sigh* CM Punk, UFC fighters are generally paid the same way they’ve always been paid. They get a certain figure for showing up which is then doubled if their hand gets raised.

There are other payments including backroom bonuses, performance bonuses, PPV points and the much-maligned cut of the Reebok sponsorship, but most of the money the majority of fighters receive directly from the UFC comes from their show/win money.

Unlike the guaranteed purse we see in sports such as boxing, the thinking is that the promise of your money being doubled incentivises fighters to fight to earn their crust. However, in reality, a lot of fighters see it as exactly the opposite.

In their eyes, a loss results in their payment being halved. So why on Earth would they go down swinging when they can minimise the risk, fight smart and ultimately grind out what can be perceived as a boring, but financially beneficial win?

This is exactly how two-weight WSOF world champion David Branch approaches his fights, as he explained on the MMA Hour. Although he explicitly stated that he doesn’t want to spearhead any movement for change, his mindset proves that the current system is flawed.

“Becoming the champion is where the sure-shot money is. That’s where the money is. No matter what. Even if your fight is fucking boring or not, if you’re the champion, if you win, you’re getting paid.”

“Who in their right mind wants to be that exciting when you risk losing half your fucking money, but you going out there for all the fucking risks?”

You can hardly blame Branch for adopting this approach. It’s what makes most financial sense. Although it was a long road for him to get back to the UFC, he picked up a couple of titles along the way which brought a few six-figure paydays with them.

“You’re going out there for all the danger and then your ass gets fucked up because you’re trying to be exciting and then you get half your fucking money and they say, ‘Good job, son. We’ll put you back on.’ Get the fuck out of here, man. I’m not going for that. Hell no, that’s not good business for me. That doesn’t sound like a good business transaction.”

That doesn’t sound like good business to anyone. The only hole in this argument is that amassing a win-streak doesn’t also result in a title shot. Just ask Max Holloway and Tony Ferguson, both of whom required nine wins on the trot before finally fighting for a belt.

In this modern era, it’s far better to be a celebrity than a consistent winner. While Alistair Overeem needed 70 professional fights to receive a $800,000 payday at UFC 203, CM Punk got a cool half a million for his fighting debut on the same card.