In recent years there has been a discussion, mostly by ex MMA fighters who say it is a terrible idea to get involved in UFC or any of the other promotions about how almost everyone loses money in that sport. I feel as though MMA has surpassed boxing in global popularity so it doesn't make a great deal of sense to me that MMA, and especially UFC has such terrible payouts for a vast majority of the fighters.
In non pay-per-view events such as Fight Night or ESPN events, virtually all of the fighters on the card are making less than $20,000 for the fight. Now for all of us out there that don't think about this properly, making $20,000 for a maximum of 15 minutes of work seems like one hell of a payday, but if you are in that camp you aren't thinking about this situation properly.
For starters, it's not like they just sit around on their sofa watching Game of Thrones until it comes time to head to the octagon. These men and women spend the entire year working their asses off, maintaining a strict diet and exercising like hell. They also need to be part of a good training camp in order to have a chance at making it. Even when they put all of these pieces together the raw talent simply might not be there and one lucky shot to the temple can end their career before it ever begins. A vast majority of mid-level fighters that have been involved in MMA are quite public about how they think that all aspiring MMA fighters out there should seek doing literally anything else other than aspiring to be part of UFC since most of the fighters barely make enough money to get by.
I've said it before but I'll say it again. Even if you are regularly getting bookings from UFC, the top promotion in the world, and you are a mid-level fighter, you are looking at MAYBE getting 3 fights a year and if you aren't one of the chosen ones that are getting thrust to the top, you are going to be making $50,000 to $100,000 a year. Most of the people I know that have boring office jobs and are incredibly unlikely to get choked or knocked out at their office and need to spend days in the hospital after a particularly grueling day of Excel spreadsheets, make more money than this.
However, on the other side of things it seems as though boxing prize fighters are making extreme levels of cash just from a single fight.
The most famous recent example of this would be Francis Ngannou and his payday from fighting Tyson Fury recently.
While I will admit that these sources are a bit shady it is estimated that Ngannou made upwards of $20 million for a single fight with Tyson Fury. We need to keep in mind that Ngannou was one of the more favored fighters in UFC and when he defeated Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight title, he made a paltry $600,000 for his efforts.
Prior to this fight Ngannou's total net worth was between 2 and 7 million USD. Even if we select the high end of this estimate, this is over the course of MANY YEARS of being one of the best MMA fighters in the world.
So is it any wonder that a lot of MMA fighters are doing their best to get a fight with one of the big names in the boxing world? Is it any wonder that everyone wants to call out Jake and Logan Paul to fight, even if by doing so it ends up meaning they are going to tarnish their MMA career and perhaps be blacklisted from the sport because of it? With just one fight Ngannau was able to make up to 10 times his career earnings in MMA, so why would he ever be interested in going back to that?
I don't know exactly what the problem is in UFC but the first I ever started hearing with fighters complaining about pay was right around the time they were no longer allowed to seek out their own sponsors to display on their outfits as well as the little advert they would hang behind them during the introductions.
Previously, fighters were able to find their own sponsors and depending on the clout that they had they might end up with really big names. If they were mid-card fighters they might have a silly sponsor like motor oil or some local chainsaw salesroom. It didn't really matter because it was left up to the fighters and I suppose their agents how much money they were going to get in sponsorship deals. Then Reebok came along and that was now the only sponsor that any fighter was able to represent in the octagon.
This was meant to be a "good deal" for the fighters themselves but it actually ended up being quite the opposite. A lion's share of the sponsorship money would go to the top fighters, while the lower level fighters would end up getting a pittance of the overall shared revenue. It would appear as though they are forced to hold Monster Energy drinks when talking to Joe Rogan after a win as well.
I haven't really answered my own question about why is it that boxers make so much more money than MMA fighters though. While it is a rather long article filled with a lot of speculation and ambiguity this article does a decent job of explaining why it is that boxers generally make more money than MMA fighters do. Basically it boils down to the amount of promoters, who holds the TV rights, and where the fights are organized. In MMA there is basically only one promoter and that is UFC. Sure there are others but even the number 2 organization, Bellator, pales in comparison to UFC's reach. There is no doubt that UFC is keeping a vast majority of the money for themselves and they are able to get away with this because of how they have positioned themselves in the industry. Their opinion of "if you don't like it, there's the door" is something they can get away with but in boxing, if a promotion had this attitude there are plenty of other promotions that can simply host the same thing but with better paydays.
All we have to do is look at the "big names" that moved over to Bellator in the past from UFC. They are almost always washed up fighters that go over there for some retirement money and then eventually retire. On the other hand, when someone like Michael Chandler has the opportunity to move from Bellator to UFC, he jumped at the chance to do so.
UFC could fix this if they wanted to but honestly, if you were them, would you? They don't really have any competition in the MMA world so if they can keep doing what they've been doing and keep getting what they've been getting, why shouldn't they keep it this way? It might seem mean and immoral but this sport and every other sport isn't about the sport, it is about making money. I don't see UFC changing their ways anytime soon and I would imagine that we are going to continue to see MMA fighters jump at the chance to switch over to boxing at the first chance that they get.