This past weekend, it was disclosed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission that the combined total payroll for the fighters at UFC 143 was reported at $880,500. These amounts, as we all know by now, do not include any specific fight bonuses, such as submission of the night, fight of the night, or the always professionally irresponsible—knockout of the night. Insurance, licensing, and taxes are then deducted from these salaries.
Here are the fighter salaries as reported by the NSAC:
Carlos Condit: $110,000 (includes $55,000 win bonus) def. Nick Diaz: $200,000
*Fabricio Werdum: $100,000 (no win bonus) def. *Roy Nelson: $20,000
Josh Koscheck: $146,000 (includes $73,000 win bonus) def. Mike Pierce: $20,000
Renan Barao: $22,000 (includes $11,000 win bonus) def. Scott Jorgensen: $20,500
Ed Herman: $62,000 (includes $31,000 win bonus) def. Clifford Starks: $8,000
*Dustin Poirier: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus) def. Max Holloway: $6,000
Edwin Figueroa: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus) def. Alex Caceres: $8,000
Matt Brown: $30,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus) def. Chris Cope: $8,000
Matt Riddle: $30,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus) def. Henry Martinez: $6,000
Rafael Natal: $20,000 (includes $10,000 win bonus) def. Michael Kuiper: $6,000
*Stephen Thompson: $12,000 (includes $6,000 win bonus) def. Dan Stittgen: $6,000
*BONUSES: An additional $65,000 to Thompson (KO), Poirier (SUB), Werdum/Nelson (FIGHT).
Thankfully, Roy Nelson was the co-winner of the ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus, or else his reported salary for co-headlining a major UFC PPV event would only have earned him a shockingly low $20,000 for his efforts. Nelson has competed in the UFC a total of six times and has a record of 3-3. He is also the Heavyweight Tournament Winner from The Ultimate Fighter television series and is considered one of the more popular and recognizable fighters on the roster. This was not the first time that Nelson had co-headlined a main event with the UFC, nor is it the first time that he is reported to have made less money than many of the fighters currently competing on the undercard.
Carlos Condit’s total earnings were barely over half of that of his competitor, Nick Diaz, and that included his win bonus. Condit is the new (Interim) Welterweight Champion and must now be considered as a top earner amongst his peers.
The grand total for fighter salaries (before deductions, and not including sponsorship money, which has absolutely nothing to do with how much the fighters earn from the UFC as a salary) is now at a total of $1,140,500.
Now double it.
Because according to UFC President, Dana White, the fighters make significantly more than what is being reported by the NSAC—so let’s give the UFC the full benefit of the doubt and double the fighter salaries—just for arguments sake.
That’s a new total of $2,281,000.
Coincidentally, the event itself brought in a 2.3 million dollars (almost the exact same) just from the gate revenue (10,040 fans in attendance) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
And no, I don’t personally think that the fighter salaries are actually doubled from that of what the UFC reports to the NSAC.
Figuring out the estimated revenues from the pay-per-views is somewhat difficult, as the numbers have yet to be released, so by using the Law of Averages, we can determine an estimated value:
UFC 142 Buy-Rate: 225,000
UFC 141 Buy-Rate: 800,000
UFC 140 Buy-Rate: 485,000
UFC 139 Buy-Rate: 290,000
UFC 138 Buy-Rate: Televised
UFC 137 Buy-Rate: 280,000
UFC 136 Buy-Rate: 225,000
UFC 135 Buy-Rate: 520,000
UFC 134 Buy-Rate: 335,000
Eliminate UFC 141 (Highest) and UFC 136 (Tied for Lowest) and the average PPV Buy-Rate for UFC 143 would likely be in the neighbourhood of 355,800.
It wouldn’t actually surprise me to learn that this number is probably very close to the actual number. Even though Diaz and Condit lack the same mainstream popularity draw as fighters such as Brock Lesnar or GSP, I do know that this was a fight that many true fans of the sport were actually very excited about watching.
Now for the other difficult part—trying to determine how much revenue is exactly generated from 355,800 pay-per-view buys. It’s difficult because the amount that a fan pays out from their home or on their computer, is significantly less than what local bars or restaurants would pay out for a licensing fee.
So again, for arguments sake and to ensure that the numbers are not inflated for the purposes of this analysis, let’s calculate each of the PPV’s at the minimum cost of $50 per purchase.
That’s a grand total of 17.79 million dollars—none of which goes to any of the fighters, and realistically, is probably a LOT higher than that—doubled or even tripled in value.
The bottom line here is that the balance in revenues is way off and nowhere near the 50-percent revenue split that was suggested by Zuffa owner, Lorenzo Fertitta, in his recent ESPN interview. But so long as the fighters are making more than what they would from pumping gas for a living, or coaching at the local gym, or even teaching a pack of sixth graders—they’re not about to complain that the UFC, as a company, is earning billions of dollars each and every year off of the sweat and sacrifice that these athletes put in, just so that they can entertain the fans and put their long-term health at serious risk in the process.
The fans keep spending their money each month, the UFC keeps taking it, and the fighters have no choice but to just keep on accepting it. It’s a pretty vicious circle, so unless the fans are willing to step up and boycott upcoming UFC events in support of the fighters that they claim to love so much—nothing is ever going to change.
And it probably won’t. Not if it means that the fans (or MMA Media) will have to go without their favourite distraction for a while.
These are my opinions. If you don’t like them...I have others. Check them out at www.mrjamesryan.com