Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let's Talk Money

Started getting into an interesting debate about fighter salaries and income over at the Facebook page of Canadian MMA analyst Showdown Joe Ferraro and thought it would make for an excellent topic of discussion here.

My debate "opponent" for lack of a better word is of the impression that fighters deserve a far greater cut of the big money pie that is the UFC, especially in comparison to boxing. The example he puts forth is a comparison of Ricky Hatton and Georges St-Pierre, correctly stating that Hatton got paid $8M for getting dropped in the second by Manny Pacquiao, while GSP earned $400k total for beating the bejesus out of BJ Penn.

For me, the comparison with boxing is not a perfectly valid one, as the sweet science has a much longer history than MMA. I would argue that in the infancy of boxing on pay-per-view, very few people were making anywhere near the type of money they make now, outside of corrupt promoters.

As great as the UFC has done recently in PPV buys, I do believe they are still in their infancy as a money-making entity. Similarly to wrestling that didn't immediately take the PPV world by storm, I believe you will see a sharp increase in buys for mixed martial arts events over the next five years as the sport continues to transition into the mainstream. I would wager that it is at this point that top tier fighters will start receiving even larger salaries.

Furthermore, some of the true big name fighters receive a cut of the PPV money. Not many, but the guys who headline the biggest shows see some of that back-end money, much like film stars on blockbuster movies.

Don't get me wrong - I don't want this to sound like I don't think these guys don't deserve more money, because I do. They take great risks to perform and entertain and many don't make enough money to fight full-time and that is not right.

That being said, no sport went from zero to millionaires overnight and MMA should not be any different. If you start paying guys ridiculous salaries out of the gate, you set yourself up for disaster.

As the money has gotten better in the sport, the paychecks to the fighters has grown accordingly and I truly believe that this trend will continue.

Now if we could only get a little money flowing through to the people who write about this sport...

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