Strategy for Maximizing Your Pay as a Mixed Martial Arts Fighter.

As my buddy Paul Chittenden and I were chatting recently, the topic of fighter compensation and the current hysteria surrounding UFC salary came up. As opposed to the best fighters, why does it seem like the remainder of the squad is scraping by?


The topic shifted to the business strategies that some boxers use to generate a lot of money while having a lackluster record.

Paul helps athletes and business entrepreneurs develop their impact and monetize their brands. He’s been following mixed martial arts (MMA) since UFC I and is an expert at finding ways to increase athletes’ earnings.

Since I know many of you have desires to take your MMA love to the professional level, I wanted to get Paul over and get his opinions on how fighters could set their careers up for financial success.

Mixed Martial Arts
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 06: Marlon Vera of Ecuador reacts after his knockout victory over Frankie Edgar in their bantamweight fight during the UFC 268 event at Madison Square Garden on November 06, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Many people fantasize about earning a livelihood fighting and being rich. Yet, many professional boxers are suffering financially.

Still, some fighters have found the formula to become living legends, MMA rockstars. And, they’ve earned millions.

For a long time, I’ve made it my business to learn from the best of the best in sports and business. I have researched the processes through which famous people rise to prominence and how influential people earn their living. The meteoric ascent to prominence of Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor has been dissected and studied by me.

As a result of my investigation, I’ve learned many techniques that may help mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter launch their career, expand their sphere of influence, and make more money.

Mixed Martial Arts
MALL OF ASIA ARENA, PASAY CITY, NCR, PHILIPPINES – 2018/07/27: During the ONE Championship between (Red) Kevin Belingon and (Black) Martin Nguyen. Kevin Belingon served as the latest setback and heartbreak to Martin Nguyen’s quest to be the first three-division champion in MMA history, displaying a masterclass on how to dominate Nguyen, the reigning Lightweight, and Featherweight ONE Champion. (Photo by Dennis Jerome Acosta/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In this piece, I’ll explain the process in detail, but first, let’s examine the compensation for fighters.

I was wondering, how much do MMA fighters make?

As of right now, the UFC is a hotbed of discontent about fighter compensation.

To the untrained eye, it may seem like the best mixed martial artists in the world earn millions of dollars every bout. Top-tier fighters are earning a lot of money, but the salaries of middle- and even lower-tier competitors may surprise you.

Unless you’re at the very top of the MMA industry, fighters are grossly underpaid compared to athletes in other sports.

In 2018, the average UFC fighter earned $138,250. However, the best fighters significantly distort this average with their massive pay-per-view audiences.

Only 350 UFC competitors, out of a total of 589 with reported earnings, earned more than $50,000 in 2019.

Now we’re talking Ultimate Fighting Championship stakes. Lower-tier companies are often paying less than this.

Just how do mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters earn a living?

Most mixed martial artists also hold down regular jobs.

The basic fact is, in most organizations, fighters are paid to fight. The winner receives a higher percentage of the total compensation than the loser, but both get a salary.

Mixed Martial Arts
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) Brandon Lewis kicks Mo Miller in a bantamweight fight during Dana White’s Contender Series season five week three at UFC APEX on September 14, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Some organizations pay a part of ticket sales or even have the combatants themselves sell tickets. The combatant will get tickets at a discount and pocket the savings.

Some event organizers may cover logistical costs including lodging, meals, and transportation.

Earnings may also be supplemented by participating in endorsement deals, selling items, and giving public or private lessons, workshops, or seminars.

What Costs Do MMA Athletes Have to Consider?

Similar business skills are required in the battle game. Unlike regular employees, who keep the whole of their paychecks after taxes, mixed martial artists have “work expenditures” deducted from their wins.

Just like a company owner, they need to keep their finances in order. A good illustration, provided by Myles Jury:

Our sample boxer is on a $10,000 / $10,000 contract. This implies they are paid a $10,000 basic wage and a $10,000 victory bonus. He wins and earns $20k.

Mixed Martial Arts
LAS VEGAS – FEBRUARY 6: Randy Couture (red shorts) def. Mark Coleman (black shorts) – Submission (rear-naked choke) – 1:09 round 2 during UFC 109 at Mandalay Bay Events Center on February 6, 2010, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The price our warrior must pay is:

Taxes – 30%, $6,000

Compensation for administration: $4,000 (20% of annual revenue).

Weight Room Membership: $2,000 (or 10% of a purse)

Cost of an Advisor – $1000

Spend $1,000 on travel expenses.

Budget Busting: $14,000

Money Won by Fighter: $6,000

As this illustration indicates, fighters’ expenditures consume a significant chunk of their income.

It’s not easy to save just $6,000 out of a $20,000 paycheck. If he had lost the war, the financial situation would be considerably bleaker. Fighters need to think like a businessman to enhance this revenue.

From Amateur to Mixed Martial Arts If this is your first battle, it won’t matter; you’ll still be treated like a rock star.

The vast majority of fighters are concerned only with training and earning ends meet. They don’t do the work required to promote themselves effectively.

The thrill of combat sports lies in the fact that competitors may face off in front of a cheering audience. Everyone in the crowd is there observing you.

Take a look back in time. Wars have always been waged by men to establish their supremacy. The gladiators fought before packed stadiums of spectators.

Every guy (and some women) fantasizes about being locked up like that. They wish they were more skilled, more disciplined, and maybe more courageous.

You’re performing on a stage. For a brief period of time, you will be well recognized even amongst nonprofessionals.

Mixed Martial Arts
HOUSTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 07: Vicente Luque of Brazil reacts after defeating Michael Chiesa via submission in their welterweight bout during the UFC 265 event at Toyota Center on August 07, 2021, in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

I’m going to teach you how to take advantage of this.

The Two Rules for a Successful MMA Career

To make a successful run at a top-tier MMA company like the UFC or Bellator, there are two rules.

These same two guidelines are what the top personalities in the sport utilize to negotiate the largest compensation.

They are basic, yet occasionally in conflict with one other.


Engage in a Fight That People Will Enjoy

Keep in mind that the money in fighting comes from fans and ticket purchases. The Dana Whites are seeking warriors who will “fill the seats.”

To Be Successful, One Must Be Victorious in Combat

I mean, come on, guys, this is common sense. You have to win bouts on the amateur circuit before you can make it to the pros.

Staying in the major leagues requires a consistent winning record, or at least the victory of enough bouts to maintain one’s position in the rankings.







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