You must be fucking kidding me. You have absolutely got to be yanking my goddamn chain. There is no way you can seriously sit there and look me in my bloodshot eyes while you honestly tell me that Paddy Pimblett’s main card fight at UFC London on Saturday paid him just $12,000 to show and $12,000 to win.
I mean, come on. Twelve and goddamn twelve?!? For the guy who had the London crowd in such a frenzy, wearing those wigs in support of this Prince Valiant-looking motherfucker? He brings in all that attention, energy, and enthusiasm, and for this he gets a UFC contract that pays him like he just came in sixth on “The Ultimate Fighter” a decade ago? That’s goddamn criminal, is what that is.
Yet “The Baddy” himself told Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports that’s exactly what he got before any discretionary bonuses were factored in. And hey, since the UFC and Endeavor have both decided to lean on the claim that the UFC “has increased fighter pay by 600% since 2005” whenever they come under fire for keeping all the damn money, seems like maybe some historical context might be useful here.
You know who else made 12 and 12 to fight in the UFC? How about a fella by the name of Christian Wellisch. Of course, he made that (according to the official reported payout from the commission) at UFC 94 in 2009. Rich Clementi also made 12 and 12, but that was at UFC 76 in 2007. Rashad Evans also made 12 and 12 for his win at UFC 63 in 2006.
So basically, if we want to make these comparisons to how UFC fighter pay has changed since 2005, we should note that Pimblett is being paid like a guy who won TUF in 2005 and was on his fourth fight in the UFC. And how lucky for Pimblett! He’s only on his second fight in the UFC and he didn’t even have to win TUF! All he had to do was come in as a former Cage Warriors champion who brought his own existing fanbase with him to the UFC.
Of course, if you follow the news and what not, you might have heard that $12,000 in 2022 doesn’t go as far as it did in 2006. So while the UFC can say it’s increased pay 600% since then, fighters like Pimblett aren’t exactly feeling it.
But wait! Didn’t Pimblett get a $50,000 bonus for his win at UFC London? Yes he did. But as long as we’re comparing UFC payout figures across the years, you want to go ahead and guess what the performance bonuses were worth at, say, UFC 78 in 2007? G’head, guess. Did you say $55,000? Because if so, you are correct. How about for UFC 81 in 2008? Back then the bonuses were $60,000. How about for UFC 121 in 2010? Those bonuses were $70,000.
That’s right. The bonus money has largely gone down as the UFC has grown insanely wealthier.
Point is, if you’re arguing that UFC fighters have seen this wild increase in their pay over the last 15 years, you have to reckon with some actual numbers that, even before you adjust for inflation, suggest they aren’t necessarily feeling all that much better off. Even that shit Francis Ngannou was just saying about making $600,000 as heavyweight champ before any bonuses or pay-per-view points were factored in? Dog, that’s only slightly better than the $500,000 in disclosed pay that Chuck Liddell made for losing to Keith Jardine at UFC 76 in 2007! And Chuck wasn’t even champ then!
Tell you where the numbers have changed significantly, though, and that’s on the UFC’s side. UFC 76 was a pay-per-view event in the Honda Center headlined by one of the biggest stars the company had ever had to that point, and it brought in just under $2 million at the gate. UFC London this past weekend, on the other hand, was a Fight Night event devoid of major UFC stars and it brought in about $4.5 million in ticket sales.
That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the increase in TV money the UFC has seen since those Spike TV days. Back then, Spike TV was paying the UFC somewhere in the neighborhood of a reported $35 million per year. When the UFC signed with ESPN in 2019, it bundled the TV and streaming rights together for a reported $300 million per year. That’s not factoring in all the various other international rights deals the UFC has signed around the globe, of which there are many. Then there’s also stuff like site fees for returning to certain arenas and the massive increase in the UFC’s sponsorship revenue.
Because, oh yeah, that $12,000 to show that guys like Rashad Evans were making in 2006? That was back when UFC fighters could still sell their own sponsor logos on their shorts and banners, and many fighters were making substantially more money from that than they were in contracted UFC pay. Seriously, if you weren’t following the sport back then you might not believe it, but dudes were regularly making tens of thousands of dollars just to wear a certain ball cap to the cage. Then they added more with decals on their ass and crotch and everywhere else they’d fit. The UFC ended that practice with its “exclusive apparel” deals, and then largely routed that sponsorship revenue stream directly into its own pockets.
Still want to tell me that fighters are doing so much better than they were 15 years ago? I mean, some of them, sure. It’s worth noting that those payouts from 2006 and 2007 show some guys making four grand to show (again, that’s for fighting another human being in a cage lol). That doesn’t happen anymore (except in Bellator).
But in the same period where we’re told that fighter pay went up 600 percent, the UFC has seen an increase of 1,700 percent in revenue and a 6,200 percent increase in profits. You think the massive disparity in those numbers can be explained by any scenario in which fighters are proportionately sharing in the UFC’s success? Because no, there’s just flat out no fucking way. Go ask Paddy if you don’t believe me.
And oh yeah, that fake-ass $107k payout that someone just made up for him and put on the internet? The one that made Pimblett chime in like, fuck I wish! My dude, that’s almost exactly what Josh Koscheck made for beating Anthony Johnson at UFC 106 in 2009. Except that Koscheck got to sell his own sponsorships. And he got two performance bonuses that night. And the bonuses were worth $70,000 each. L O fucking L.
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