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Dan Hardy: “Fighter pay is really a strange situation…”

Dan Hardy: “Fighter pay is really a strange situation…”

One of the hot topics in the MMA world as of late relates to the amount of money mid and lower tier athletes are making in the UFC. Though salaries often look nice on paper, a number of outside factors are rarely considered when it comes to pay including the cost of a camp and the frequency in which a fighter takes to the Octagon.

Welterweight Dan Hardy understands the issue all too well, especially after being sidelined for nearly a year due to a heart condition calling into question his ability to continue competing. “The Outlaw” recently offered up his thoughts on the money he and his peers make, explaining it’s far more complicated than it might seem though he doesn’t fault fighters for being concerned about their financial futures.

“Fighter pay is really a strange situation, because there’s such a vast difference in the guys that are on the first three fights of a card and the guys on the last three fights of a card. The guys on the lower end are seeing what the main card guys are doing and thinking, ‘Well, I’m doing all the same stuff that they’re doing, sacrificing just as much.’ They’re spending just as much on their training camp, but they’re not getting the same kind of compensation,” said Hardy in an interview with Bloody Elbow. “The problem is that the fighters are in a situation where we don’t really have a great deal of options, as far as bargaining power. There are 100 guys that would step in and do my job for free. That kind of devalues us. There aren’t any options as far as where we can go and what we can do.”

“With the sponsor fees, it really limits what we can do outside the sport, as well. It’s just a very difficult situation to be in,” he continued. “Now, with there being so many fighters, the guys aren’t getting three fights a year any more. It’s down to maybe two a year, and it all just comes back to not having many other options. I can understand that the UFC has a business model, and their lower tier fighters fare much better than pro boxers, but it’s just not enough to live on.”

Hardy went on to explain it takes more than a winning record or even the distinction of being a title-contender to turn a career in the UFC into a truly lucrative endeavor.

“Unless you win the belt or break into that PPV buy cut, or are in the very top tier, you just can’t get by with it being your sole source of income,” concluded Hardy. “Frankie Edgar recently fought and got a whole chunk of change. He fought really hard, and he deserves that money, but he didn’t start making that kind of money until he fought for and won a belt. I’ve fought for a belt, and I’m certainly not making anywhere near that kind of money.”

The 31-year old Brit didn’t necessarily have a solution for the problem, though he did point to the $100,000 sponsor tax companies pay to get UFC approval as having an overwhelmingly negative affect on fighters who rely on those funds for their livelihood.

  • Richard Stabone says:

    A partial solution Hardy at least hinted at…

    If they could do a tier system for sponsors, it might make a lot of difference for a lot of people. It’s very difficult for a company to even get off the ground because they can’t sponsor any of the fighters. It’s effectively killing the MMA brand as a whole.

    Not sure how practical that would be, but Hardy’s right that fighter pay is a strange situation. I mean, we’re talking about a billion dollar company and the guys whose backs the UFC is making all that money off are–with a few high profile exceptions–living paycheck to paycheck.

  • Screenplaya says:

    On sponsor fees, why not: just drop the $100,000 sponsor fee, and instead have the UFC take a tiny percentage of the sponsor money. Then, the lower tier fighters keep most of the money, and the big stars, who can afford it, pay more. Plus, that seems more sensible as the bigger draws, who got their fame in the UFC, contribute more sponsor money than the fledgling or lower-tier performers.

  • MCM says:

    First off, the guys on the first 3 fights SHOULD be making less than the guys on the last 3 fights. Cause it’s the job of the guys on the last 3 fights to sell the card. Everyone trains like a motherfucker. That’s not something to be rewarded, that’s the price of admission to be in MMA. It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting regional shows or headlining UFC PPV’s, everyone sacrifices, gets beat up, and pays to play.

    Secondly, the only way anything is going to change is if the sport Unionizes. And I don’t mean the UFC, I mean all of MMA. The Yankees didn’t unionize and then the rest of MLB followed suit, MLB unionized and forced the teams to follow suit. MMA as a whole needs to unionize and force the UFC to play ball.
    WAMMA was a good idea but was poorly executed. But let’s say they succeeded, or someone new does. Let’s say Canada, Brazil and the UK got on board and only sanctioned Unionized MMA fights. What happens to the UFC’s attempt to go global and branch into new markets then? The UFC already has talent turning them down to stay in Asia, what happens when all the up and coming talent decides they’re better off fighting for union wages as opposed to facebook fights and no job security?
    If Bellator, OneFC, MFC, WSOF and a few others really wanted to take down the UFC, or at least level the playing field, they’d work with the fighters to build a true MMA union and really take the sport to it’s next evolution.


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