It’s no secret that the UFC is raking in money hand over fist, but where the money’s going appears to be one. The mixed martial arts (MMA) company is selling out arenas all over the world. It just held its biggest ever promotion in North America on April 30th when it sold 55,724 seats at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada, for a live gate of $12.1 million. But the fighters are still being paid peanuts when compared to other sports, especially boxing.
This has led Nick Diaz, who’s signed with Strikeforce, to say he wants to enter boxing to make some real money. He’s hoping to take on former IBF and IBO super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy (25-4, 17 Kos), who’s now 33 years old and has lost three of his last four fights.
But UFC boss Dana White doesn’t think it’s a good idea. He admits that Diaz has a clause in his contract which states he’s allowed to box and that deal should be honored. But he doesn’t think it’s in Diaz’s best interests to do so and he’s going to try and talk the MMA fighter out of it. It could be that White doesn’t want one of his fighters being embarrassed in a boxing ring, because there’s not really any other reason to not wanting him to take on Lacy.
However, Diaz, who recently defended his welterweight crown for the third time, isn’t necessarily taking the fight to prove he can box. He said he’s overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated by Strikeforce, which is owned by the UFC.
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You can’t blame Diaz for wanting to jump ship, at least temporarily, because MMA fighters are and have been grossly underpaid for years. When you look at the numbers, mixed martial artists are simply getting ripped off by somebody. Brock Lesnar, the former UFC heavyweight king, took home $5.3 million in 2010, which was tops in the organization despite sky-high ticket prices and millions of pay-per-views sold.
Compare that to boxer Manny Pacquiao, who raked in $32 million and only had to fight twice to earn it. Boxing has long been associated with shady characters and the underworld, but compared to mixed martial arts, the elite boxers are making a hell of a living.
This is hard to understand since White would have you believe the UFC is a lot more popular than boxing and the pay-per-view numbers and live gates would support him. So just where is all of the money going? It’s definitely not going to the fighters who put their lives on the line every time they step into the octagon.
UFC fighters are getting a bigger piece of the pie these days, but it’s not enough. Kobe Bryant made $24.8 million last year for throwing a ball through a hoop and Alex Rodriguez took home $32 million for hitting a ball with a bat. MMA fighters are getting kicked in the face literally and figuratively when you consider what they’re getting paid.
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For example, UFC 126, which was held in Las Vegas on Feb 5, drew a live gate of $3.6 million. It would have been higher, but more than 10 per cent of tickets were given away. The average price for a ticket was $373.00, ranging from $75 to $750. The base salary of all the fighters combined was just over $1.3 million, with the top salary being $275,000 and the lowest being just $6,000. Out of those salaries, insurance, taxes, and licenses etc. had to be deducted.
This means the fighters were paid off by just 36 per cent of the live gate, leaving 64 per cent as profit. However, we haven’t added in the money made from broadcasting the preliminary bouts on Spike TV and the pay per view totals. It was estimated that 750,000 pay-per-views were sold at about $50 a shot for $37.5 million. Therefore, the total gate was about $40 million, with the fighters receiving $1.3 million, which translates to just over three per cent.
Ironically it was a boxer, James Toney, who was paid the most at UFC 118. Toney embarrassed himself in the octagon and was paid $500,000 for lasting just 199 seconds against Randy Couture, who was paid $250,000. It was Toney’s first and last fight in the UFC. The headliner that night, lightweight champ Frankie Edgar, earned $96,000.
The UFC does have some overhead like everyone else and gives out bonuses at its card for things such as KO of the night and fight of the night. But when you see how little these guys are getting paid by Dana White’s organization, you can’t be blamed for thinking maybe Don King’s not such a bad guy after all.