MMA Fighter Reveals How It’s Almost Impossible To Make Money In The UFC, Even If You Win.
Myles Jury is a damn fine fighter. He went on a 6-0 run in the UFC before taking his first career loss to Cowboy Cerrone on January 3rd, 2015. He’s beaten an assortment of quality opponents including Takanori Gomi, Diego Sanchez, Michael Johnson and Mike Ricci.
Even with a 15-1 record and being ranked top 10 in his division, it’s not easy to make a buck in the UFC.
Myles Jury recently broke down the typical expenses for an MMA fighter and put it into perspective with what a fighter gets paid. For guys who are on a 10/10 contract (They get paid a guaranteed $10000 for showing up, and another $10000 if they win), they’re almost definitely forced to pay for the privilege of fighting in the world’s premiere MMA organization, and MIGHT break even when it’s all said and done.
If you don’t think that it’s kind of messed up that professional athletes in a premiere organization are paying out of pocket to compete, just imagine if you had to write your boss a bigger check than he writes you and you’ll start to understand.
Taxes: UFC fighters are sub-contractors so they’re responsible for making sure they have enough left over for the tax man. 30% is a good rule of thumb.
That’s 6k with a win, 3k with a loss.
Medicals: Fighters need to pay for their own medical tests in order to get licensed by each commission. According to Jury, it’s typically $500-$1000.
We’ll call it an even $500 to be conservative.
Coaching Fees: Basic coaching is included in gym fees, but many fighters need to bring in specialists from around the world and it can really add up. Jury says private training is anywhere from $50-$150 per hour. Let’s use an 8 week fight camp for our example, with 2 hours a day of private coaching at a reasonable $75/hr.
That’s a whopping $8400, but it’s mainly top-tier fighters who can afford such luxuries. Jury went with $1000 for his calculations, so we’ll do the same.
Misc: There are a lot of other costs, including travel expenses for coaches, supplements, flying in training partners, nutritionists, clean eating, sports massages and chiros, etc. Jury says this is roughly $1000-$2000 on the low end.
Total earnings for a fighter on a 10k/10k contract who loses: $1500
That’s all they’re left with to cover all of their actual living expenses beyond training.
For example, if a fighter is travelling to Ireland, Australia, or any other far away lands for a fight, they’ll want to get there earlier to adjust to the time zone shift and to deal with jet lag. Not to mention adjusting to the altitude (paging Cain). Every extra night means hundreds of dollars in hotel rooms and other assorted expenses.
Also, foreign governments will also tax the fighter’s earnings sometimes, making it EVEN HARDER to break even.
So if the fighter wins, and doesn’t have any extra coaching, they’re looking at a payday of roughly $5500 for months of full-time, hard work. For an active fighter, who fights 4 times a year and wins each fight, that’s about $22000 in their pocket at the end of the year for rent or mortgage, meals, gasoline, car payments, insurance, cellphone, etc… It’s barely minimum wage, and we’re not talking about burger flippers or cashiers here, we’re talking about professional athletes at the pinnacle of their sport.
Do you know how many guys that enter the UFC will actually make it anywhere near the top level? Not very many.
If that fighter loses, he’s looking at about $1500 after it’s all said and done to live off of for months. Not even nearly enough to scrape by for a couple months, assuming he’s able to book another fight immediately, which isn’t easy to do if you’re losing. If this fighter were to lose 4 times in a year before getting cut (Also very unlikely), they would be looking at $6000/yr for full-time work and getting beaten up infront of millions of people on national television. Granted, if a fighter can’t hang in the UFC, they shouldn’t be there – but it’s tough to improve when you can’t afford to dedicate yourself to training.
And we’re not even coming close to the actual costs for bringing in a couple of coaches to work through an entire training camp, not to mention hiring sparring partners and all of the other expenses.
If you add in more realistic coaching fees and the likely much higher misc fees, both fighters are losing a lot of money.
There are a few other ways that fighters can make money besides their fight purse. For example, fighters can earn anywhere from a couple to a few extra thousand in Reebok sponsorship, which pales in comparison to what most guys were getting from their own sponsors.
Also, there are fight of the night and performance of the night bonuses that a small % of fighters will earn from each card.
To top it off, there’s the “discretionary bonuses” aka the locker-room bonuses that the UFC hands out to the fighters that they deem worthy, but these are far from guaranteed and they’re also very secretive so we’re not sure how to include those in our calculations.
We’re not trying to specifically call out the UFC here either, fighters in Bellator and other promotions are earning SUBSTANTIALLY less. We’re using the UFC as an example because they’re the leaders in MMA.