Speaking exclusively to the GrappleTalk podcast, Kennedy said: “It’s pathetic that so many fighters [have to have other jobs]…I’m one of the 3% of guys in the whole entire sport and it would be slim pickings to survive off what I make in fighting.”
“It’s good to have another job because the UFC doesn’t pay very well.”
Kennedy also took aim at MMA sites who push the UFC’s “propaganda” that fighters are overpaid, and claimed that he could make a better living as a firefighter, cop or even from working in a supermarket.
When asked if he thought that this was a reality of the sport, Kennedy said: “Anybody who accepts that as a reality of the sport is sad and pathetic. I hope this isn’t the reality of the sport, if it is I should probably go do something else, like empty trash cans. I’d make more money than I do now.”
Kennedy revealed that he was due around $55,000 to show up at UFC 162, with the purse potentially increasing to $70,000 with a win bonus – but that after the expenses of his camp, medicals and fight team, he would only pocket around $20,000, even before taxes. After the interview, Kennedy sent a detailed breakdown of how his fight purse would be divided up: 13% on gym fees, 12% for nutrition, 10% to his manager, 10% to his coach, 8% on his camp lodging, 3% for fight medicals and 3% on equipment. In total, that’s 59% of his fight purse before tax is deducted.
Fighter pay has been a hot button issue so far this year – after retiring following UFC on FX 8, lightweight John Cholish revealed that after expenses he had lost around $6,000 through taking the fight, including losing 27% of his pay to taxes in Brazil. Cholish estimated that 90% of fighters agreed with him on fighter pay, but were afraid to speak out in case they lost their spots in the UFC. Jacob Volkmann, who was recently cut by the UFC, also criticized the organization for the same reasons.
Cholish told Ariel Helwani: “For the love of the sport I was pretty much doing it the whole time, but then it gets to the point where financially it just doesn’t make any sense.” However, Dana White was untroubled by the criticism, tweeting that “washouts are never happy.” Former top contender and current UFC commentator Kenny Florian also weighed in on fighter pay in an interview in the New York Post, saying that he thought that pay would get better with time.
Florian may well be right, as UFC purses have about tripled in the last eight years. The total payout for UFC 51 in 2005 was just over $500,000, while last month’s UFC 160 was over $1.5m. In terms of the individuals, Randy Couture was making $225,000 in 2005 while Cain Velasquez and George St Pierre clear $400,000 today. The lowest paid fighters will make around $6,000 to show nowadays, compared to a measly $2,000 in 2005.
However this is not the full story – even UFC champions like Demetrious Johnson only make $40,000 per fight with a win bonus, and the world’s most famous WMMA fighter Ronda Rousey didn’t even clear a $100k purse for her first title defense.
Of course all of this is based on disclosed fighter pay, and how much fighters truly make after a host of locker room bonuses remains somewhat of a mystery.
At the end of the day, the UFC is a private company and negotiating pay is always tricky in an individual sport, but it is clear from a bit of quick research that there are vast disparities in fighter salaries in the UFC today. In the words of Tim Kennedy: “Something needs to change.”
Callum has posted the transcript of his interview here.
Photos courtesy of onthemat.com and ufc.com