And we love to listen.
What’s worse than a wealthy business owner talking about money? Athletes talking about money. It’s never enough with these guys. Did you see how much money he’s getting? To play BASEBALL!! Spoiled athletes! I bet they never put in a hard day’s work their entire lives.
Ah, yes. We’ve all heard it. While I’ve never said it, I’m sure I thought it. I’d love to play baseball for $10 million a year. That’s a whole lot more than any MMA fighter has ever made, and there’s a whole lot less risk of brain damage at the end of their career.
But there’s one catch to that gameplan. I suck at baseball. No one is going to pay $60 for nosebleed seats to see me pitch for the Dodgers. They won’t even pay $25 for an obstructed view with me in right field. No, I’m not good enough to play professional ball. I’m not even good enough to play semi-pro. Probably not even good enough for slow-pitch with the local guys who drink a beer at every base.
But I can take a punch. And I can hit things really hard. So I decided to try my hand at fighting.
There’s one reason why the knuckleheads from TUF 1 were able to be successful in the UFC—we all had started fighting before it was “cool.” Before any of us had dreams of fighting in the UFC, we were there in the bars and high school gyms slugging it out for a few hundred dollars or less. And the UFC wasn’t doing much better—banned in most states and with only seven pay-per-views a year, they were on the verge of closing up shop.
Then TUF 1 happened and gave the fans a back-story on the fighters they were watching. Almost overnight, there were now more free fights on TV than there had been PPV fights in the past few years. And PPV numbers went through the roof. Now, fighters had the chance to not only follow their dream of being a fighter but to also support their family.
But now that old subject that we’re never supposed to talk about is right there at the forefront again. Money. How much is a fighter worth? How much should a fighter get paid in comparison to the amount of money he’s making his employers? I don’t have a clue. But I do think fighters who make it to the big show should be able to make enough money so they don’t have to bounce on the weekends. But no one likes the guy who complains with no suggestions on how to make the situation better. So here are my suggestions.
• Every new fighter in the UFC should be signed to a three-fight, no-cut contract. What will that do? For one thing, it will let fighters know that they have a legitimate shot at making it in the UFC. For one year, they have a job for the biggest MMA promotion on the planet. It will also give the fans a chance to get to know a fighter, to give him a following. And it will make the UFC more of an exclusive club. I don’t think fighting for the UFC has quite the swagger it should. How many people can say they “fought” for the UFC? Way too many, even though their UFC “fight” was taking a couple shots and then running across the ring, tapping as they covered their head. Bring back the pride that came with having a UFC contract.
• Raise the show money to $10,000. The win bonus for the three fights should be $5,000, $7,500, and $10,000 respectively. When you get the call, “We want you to fight for the UFC,” you know that for one year YOU are a UFC fighter. This is your chance to chase down your dreams. A guaranteed $30,000 a year sure isn’t much in today’s world, especially not in the sport’s world where the aforementioned MLB player that rides the bench all season gets $490,000. But you have to start somewhere. And that $30,000 with the assurance of having a job for a year is a whole lot better than $6,000 and hoping you don’t get the “Octagon jitters” or just have an off night and get handed your walking papers.
Me? I can sit and talk about how hard I worked and how I earned every dollar I ever fought for. But I’ve also been damn lucky. More lucky than I’ve ever had the right to be. And I’ve depended on the kindness of coaches and fans and even the UFC for giving me a shot. The last time I saw Dana White, I put out my hand and said, “I want to thank you for making this all possible—for giving us a place to fight and live out our dreams.” And I meant it. I’ve had seven surgeries, innumerable concussions, been knocked out in such a brutal fashion that it’s now at the start of every UFC PPV, but every morning, I wake up and do what I want to do with my life.
Don’t be afraid to chase down your dreams. Because if this guy—who’s only two real skills are taking a punch and hitting really hard—can make it, you can too.