Mark Hunt isn’t happy. Angering a 300 lb Samoan who wields cinder blocks for hooks is not a good idea. It goes doubly so because his anger is justified. He fought Brock Lesnar at UFC 200. He lost. It then came out that Lesnar had failed his PED test. Hunt stepped into a cage and got into a fist fight with a Lesnar filled with chemicals that allowed him to hit harder, move faster, and be better. You’d be pissed if your health, both short and long term, were put at risk.
Hunt has been vocal at wanting Lesnar’s purse. First, it was half, now it’s all of it. He won’t get it. There aren’t rules in place to facilitate that. There should be. And more importantly, there should be regulations that force a full and proper disclosure of what an athlete actually receives as compensation from a promoter. This should happen now. There is no reason to delay.
THE NON-CHEATER SHOULD GET A % OF THE CHEATER’S PURSE
This makes perfect sense. When a fighter misses weight, a portion of his purse is forfeited. What percentage varies by state, but California for example takes 20% of the purse, with 10% going to the commission and 10% going to the opponent. Why the athletic commission gets a dime is a mystery answered only by the simple fact that a government bureaucracy will try to get their hands on any money they can at anytime.
The portion going to the fighter who made weight and fights on is a bonus of sorts and makes sense. By fighting someone who didn’t make weight, in theory you’re fighting at a disadvantage and so being given extra money makes up for that discrepancy. Your health and career are in more jeopardy than they’d have been had the other man made weight so recompense is fair.
This same principle should be in play with a PED failure. A fighter’s career (and if we’re being honest, life or at least quality of life) is put at greater risk when he fights someone on PEDs. Already, athletic commissions fine the cheater, just that this time they keep it all. You fight a guy who misses weight by a lb, you get a portion of his money; you fight a guy who is pumped full of steroids and PCP and you get … nothing. A state agency is enriched at the victim’s expense.
The percentage to be paid is up for debate. Hunt wants it all. That would certainly discourage people from cheating but imposing the death penalty on someone who who litters would also be a discouragement. We have to be reasonable with our punishments. Of course, the current UFC pay structure makes that determination a bit difficult.
THE UFC SHOULD BE FORCED TO DISCLOSE THE ENTIRE PAY TO ATHLETIC COMMISSIONS
Promoters are forced to disclose to the athletic commissions the contracted pay and essentially insure that the fighters will be paid. This came about after years of shady promoters not paying fighters. It’s designed to protect fighters. It’s a good thing. It also is being exploited by promotions left and right, with the UFC the highest profile example.
Forbes Magazine listed Conor McGregor as one of the highest paid athletes, and likely the highest paid fighter (depending on if Rousey is fighting, one presupposes). Forbes estimated McGregor’s winnings over a 12 month span as $18,000,000 (with an additional $4m in sponsor money). That period covered his PPV main-events of UFC 189, 194, and 196. This seems to line up with much of McGregor’s talk about how rich he is and explains all his fancy cars and clothes.
However, this doesn’t add up with the money reported to the Nevada Athletic Commission. Per the public records, McGregor made $500,000 at UFC 189, $500,000 at UFC 194, and $1,000,000 for his loss at UFC 196. I’m not an expert in math but that seems to add up to $2,000,000 – $16 million shy of what Forbes reported. Forbes might be wrong, sure, but wrong by that much? I don’t think so.
Of course, it’s widely reported that certain fighters get a % of the PPV money, depending on how well the show does. This isn’t disclosed to the commissions. But it’s money fighters are legally entitled to. This isn’t the same as discretionary bonuses. Maybe a fighter thought he should have gotten an extra $50,000 because he did a flipping head kick that made SportsCenter but that’s still understood by everyone to be at the UFC’s sole discretion.
However, if a fighter meets certain PPV marks and the UFC didn’t pay him accordingly he’d have a perfectly valid lawsuit. This is money the company is contractually obligated to pay. Bellator and Quinton Jackson reached an impasse on this issue, as his contract called for him to be paid based on certain benchmarks and he claimed they weren’t forthcoming with all the relevant information. UFC contracts, from what I’ve been told, specifically allow for an audit of figures should a fighter make such a request. That’s how binding the clauses are between fighter and promoter.
It’s important that this become known to the athletic commissions. Take McGregor for example. I’ll be fair and say that at UFC 194 he made a total of $6,000,000 (a third of the reported $18m). His disclosed pay being $500,000 means that if he’d failed for PEDS, the most he would’ve lost is $100,000 as they only punish based on the monies disclosed. But since he probably made $6,000,000 and not $500,000, instead of a 20% hit, he would pay roughly a 1.5% penalty. That’s a world of difference. You might not cheat if you were going to lose 20% of your earnings but 1%? That’s a risk maybe worth taking.
Perhaps UFC contracts stipulate that a fighter doesn’t get his PPV money if he fails for PEDS. We don’t know this, of course, because those contracts are notoriously secret.
UFC Fighter Pay: The More They Know, The More They’ll Make
The secrecy of fighter pay only benefits the UFC. They may publicly claim that it’s no one’s business what a fighter makes – and they’re right to an extent – but ultimately when workers of any profession are in the dark as to the true pay scale they lose. Hell, this has played out in professional sports all the time. Once players start to sign deals for hundreds of millions of dollars, it isn’t about job security, it’s about ego. It’s about saying, “That guy is making X? Well, I’m definitely better and worth more than him, I want X+$1.” And so it happens. The UFC makes out like a bandit so long as no one is quite sure what the other guy is making.
And kid yourself not, the company releases fighter pay figures when it suits them. After keeping mum on the actual amount Quinton Jackson had earned during his UFC tenure, when Rampage started to complain that he’d been shafted by the company Dana White was all too happy to let the world know what the real number was.
“If you’re going to go out and you want to say all this stuff about the UFC, we know what we are, we know what we do, we know what you’ve been paid,” White told MMAjunkie.com. “OK, you made $15.2 (million) but you wanted $100 (million). It’s always going to be the case.”
It’s important that full fighter pay not be made public until the UFC arbitrarily decides it isn’t. Funny how that works, eh?
A much needed rule refinement will better discourage cheating and ultimately lead to greater pay for all fighters. Meting out the penalty incurred by cheaters to their most direct victims furthers a manner of justice. And this will only happen once the simplest of changes is adopted: full and complete disclosure of fighter pay to athletic commissions.