MMAPayout.com took a look at the five most recent UFC events with available data to analyze just how much of the money the UFC brings in actually goes to the fighters. If you’re new to the sport you may find these numbers surprisingly low.
EVENT PAYROLL REVENUE FIGHTERS’ SHARE UFC 76 $1,074,000 $11,388,125 9.4% UFC 77 $812,000 $8,991,875 9.0% UFC 79 $1,399,000 $16,885,000 8.3% UFC 81 $1,132,000 $15,885,000 7.1% UFC 82 $1,112,000 $9,504,375 11.7% TOTAL $5,529,000 $62,654,375 8.8%
As MMAPayout noted in its article, these numbers do not include the discretionary “locker room” bonuses that are often given out to fighters in private and pay-per-view revenue-sharing bonuses given to the top-stars. Without transparency, we are unable to fully determine how well or how poorly the fighters are actually being treated.
In the UFC’s defense, they also pay for all the production costs, marketing, etc. that other sports organizations do not. But, with the UFC being a private company, it is impossible for us to know exactly what those numbers are and how much of their revenue is eaten up by those costs.
However, pay-per-view revenues and live gates are not the only sources of revenue for the promotion.
… including: closed circuit television, DVDs, video games, television rights fees, sponsorships, advertising, on-demand new media purchases, and other merchandising. Many of these revenue sources rely on the infamous ancillary rights clause found in the company’s standard contract. Per the clause, fighters essentially sign away the rights to their likeness and are not entitled to any compensation when it is used. The clause has been a source of contention in the company’s disputes with Randy Couture and Ortiz.
So, how much money do the fighters actually receive if their likeness is used for a product the UFC is selling—the UFC video game, for example? They get nothing. The infamous ancillary rights clause mentioned in the article is something the UFC is going to great lengths to protect.
They have hired Washington lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to lobby not only for MMA regulation, but also to protect the UFC from being listed under the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000 and Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2007, which were created to protect boxers from being taken advantage of by the promoters.
Many feel these acts should be applied to mixed martial arts, primarily because of the one-sided contracts the UFC uses. If the UFC were forced to adhere, its standard contract would be thrown out the window and its business model would likely be turned upside down.
Unfortunately, we can sit here and condemn the UFC all we want for how they treat the fighters and their response will always be that we have no clue how they treat them, which is exactly how they want it.
Just to drive that 8.8% shared revenue number home:
For the sake of comparison, in a testament to the power of collective bargaining, the percentage share of gross revenue player’s receive in other major sports: 59% in the NFL, 57% in the NBA, 55.6% in the NHL, and 53% in MLB.
We’ve seen two of the UFC’s biggest stars speak out on this issue—Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz—with many more unhappy, yet unwilling to speak on the record about it. How many more are there?
As the sport grows and attracts more attention, I truly believe the UFC can only keep up this charade for so long. If they are using their power and market share in an unethical way as many believe they are, there’s only so long they can keep it up before it comes back to bite them.
Nothing lasts forever.