Negative reactions from fighters came quickly when the UFC released the payouts associated with the Reebok sponsorship deal on May 6, 2015. Dana White responded to the complaints about the upcoming Reebok apparel deal by mocking UFC fighter Brendan Schaub’s claims about losing substantial money as a result of the deal.
UFC President Dana White said of the deal, “Listen, these guys can all keep their sponsors. They can all have them. They just can’t wear them in the octagon. That’s no different from any other sports organization on earth. NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball.” The big difference White conveniently forgot to mention is that UFC fighters on average do not make nearly as much as NFL, NBA, and MLB players when it comes to their salaries.
We looked at the publicly available information on all UFC events in Las Vegas going back to the start of 2011 until January 3, 2015. In those 30 events, which make up 20.3% of all UFC events during this time period, the average per fight salary was $60,145. According to the company, UFC fighters fight anywhere from 2-3 times a year so the amount the average UFC fighter would have made if they fought three times a year was approximately $180,400. How does this compare to NFL, NBA, and MLB players? Take a look:
The average salary in the NBA was $4.9 million for the 2013-2014 season. The average salary in MLB was $3.82 million in 2014. The average salary in the NFL was $2 million for the 2013 season. The average UFC fighter is estimated to have made less than $200,000 per year between 2011 and January 3, 2015.
The average UFC fighter would have to fight over 33 times in one year to match the average NFL salary and 81 times in one year to match the average NBA salary.
The UFC is very different “from any other sports organization on earth.” NBA, MLB, and NFL players have high average salaries and are able to collectively bargain through their players’ associations for better pay and working conditions. UFC fighters enjoy none of these benefits.
With the Reebok deal, the UFC wants fighters to look like professional athletes without the pay of professional athletes in other major sports.
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