Expressions of support for pay structure from bottom to top

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Featherweight George Roop, a veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter 8,” has fought nine times in the now-defunct WEC and UFC and carries a record of 3-5-1 under the Zuffa-owned promotions. Lightweight Jacob Volkmann signed with the promotion in 2009 and has fought seven times in the UFC, where he’s amassed a 5-2 record including five consecutive wins inside the octagon. Nam Phan, a veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter 12,” has fought four times in the UFC as a featherweight and carries a 1-3 record.

Roop, Volkmann and Phan’s guaranteed pay leans toward the lower end of what fighters make in the promotion. But they’re not struggling.

George Roop (1-2 last three fights)
“I can’t speak for anybody else, but look at me,” said Roop on Sherdog’s Beatdown radio. I’m on the very lower end of the echelon when it comes to the pay grade for the UFC … I have absolutely no problem with how much I make.”

“If you ask the UFC for anything, they’ll give it to you. If you need money up front, I’ve heard about … the UFC kind of fronting their paychecks basically. I think the UFC takes really good care of you on top of the sponsors we get, even fighting on the undercards. You’re making pretty good money fighting in the UFC. I provide a good life for my family and everything. If you’re smart with your money and you save it and you live within your means, then you’re not going to be a brokedown fighter like Ken Shamrock …

“If [ESPN] would have come and talked to me, I would have told them straight up too. … I’m not scared to talk to anybody about how I’m treated or anything. If I have an issue with how much I make or if I’m not being treated fairly, I’m not scared to talk to anybody about it. That’s just the honest truth. If I felt that I was scared, then I’d have no problem telling [the media] either. I’d have no problem putting the UFC on blast if that’s what I had to do.”

UFC Fight Night 23: UFC Fights for the Troops 2
$6,000 show money. Knocked out in 88 seconds by Mark Hominick.
Afterward given a $6,000 discretionary bonus.
$20,000 from sponsors after a 15 percent deduction from a sponsor manager.

TUF 13 Finale
$6,000 to show plus $6,000 win bonus
“$6,000 or $8,000” discretionary bonus
Just under $20,000 from sponsors after manager’s deduction

UFC 137
$8,000 show money. Lost split decision to Hatsu Hioki
“$5,000 or $6,000” discretionary bonus
$19,000 from sponsors

A trip to a local Hooters to watch a UFC event netted him $2,000.
Able to raise his rate for private MMA lessons to $70 per hour.
With the UFC’s help, he was able to create a limited liability company that helped him save money at the end of the year.
UFC’s annual fighter summit helped instill a sense of thrift. Zuffa flies its contracted athletes to a multi-day conference that addresses the ins and outs of working for the promotion, marketing, drug abuse, and financial planning.

Jacob Volkmann (3-0 last three fights)

UFC 125
$12,000 to show and $12,000 to win for decision over Antonio McKee
$3,000 discretionary bonus
$1,500 from sponsors

UFC on Versus 5
$14,000 to show and $14,000 to win for unanimous decision over Danny Castillo
$7,000 discretionary bonus
$1,200 from sponsors

UFC 141
$16,000 to show and $16,000 to win for unanimous-decision over Efrain Escudero
discretionary bonus unknown at this point
$2,000 from sponsors

20% of show and win purses went to his manager.
Paid his gym Minnesota Mixed Martial Arts Academy $1,000 in gym and training fees.

Nam Phan (1-2 last three fights)
“I’ve fought with a lot of other organizations,” Phan said. “They pay horrible. They make you sell tickets. UFC is such a huge difference … I fought boxing, and I got like a thousand bucks. It was crap. Six-thousand dollars is great!”

Negotiated guaranteed $8,000 to show and $8,000 to win for each fight
UFC 133 $8,000 to show for unanimous decision loss to Mike Brown
UFC 136 $8,000 to show and $8,000 to win for unanimous decision over Leonard Garcia
UFC 141 $8,000 to show for unanimous decision loss to Jim Hettes    

Said the discretionary bonuses were “always generous” but declined to disclose the figures.  

$19,000 to $21,000 in sponsor money over the year.

Even for those who didn’t enjoy a share of PPV dollars or backstage million-dollar bonuses, the bottom line looked good … When weighed against the alternatives, there seemed no comparison.

“Do I wish that I could make a million dollars? Of course,” Roop said. “But I understand that you have to work your way up. I think it’s about how much hard work you put in, and how you perform.”

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While the three fighters above are not competing at the UFC’s elite level, Michael Bisping, who is one fight away from a title shot, was even more adamant that the UFC pay structure is fair.

“I’m absolutely ecstatically happy with it,” the British middleweight told MMA Fighting earlier this week about fighter pay in the UFC. “Words cannot describe.”

“To be honest, it makes me mad, because people don’t understand. . “I’ve worked hard, and I get [the amount stipulated in the contract], but when Dana comes into the locker room and gives me a check afterwards, they don’t have to do that. Far from it. I was already very happy with the money I was getting, but then they’ll hand you another check on top of that and say, ‘Well done…good job,’ and there’ll be another huge check inside the envelope.”

“When I was an up-and-coming fighter I used to fight in these sh—y little shows and make no money. I used to sleep in my car. I couldn’t pay my bills. I had to work on the weekends. So if I had to go out now [as an incoming UFC fighter] and I had to win a few fights, make six [thousand dollars to show] and six [thousand dollars to win], that’s $12,000, plus maybe two or three thousand more in sponsors, and fight three or four times a way, that’s not bad money. I’d be able to pay my bills and train full-time.”

“If you win, and you start getting some notoriety with the fans and put on a good show, your pay’s going to quickly go up. You start at six and six because the UFC is running a business. It’s not, ‘Oh, this guy’s good enough to be in the UFC? Let’s pay him a quarter of a million dollars.’ It’s not like that. They’ll pay you a decent amount just for showing up, and even that’s a big jump up from the regional show that you’re used to. If you do well, they’ll take care of you. They’ll probably give you a bonus backstage and you’ll quickly be in a new contract with a significant pay raise. If you put on good shows, you’ll find success.”

“From my initial involvement with the UFC on, the UFC has done nothing but take great care of me and my family. They’ve always gone above and beyond the call of duty. They really have. With bonuses, with care, if I ever have injuries they give me access to the best doctors and then pay for everything. Myself and my family, we’re living a great lifestyle. …I’m making more money in one fight than I could have in 20 years of my old job. So you’ll never hear a bad word come out of my mouth about the UFC’s pay structure.”

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