Conor McGregor (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Fights, Finances and Fans: 11 Unpopular Opinions Regarding the Fight Business

No one has to support what you are doing.

Everyone in this world has a preference as it pertains to what they like, what they support and what they put their money behind. Just because the public has a preference, it doesn’t make them dumb, ignorant or unappreciative. It means they like what they like. They have the right to do so.

It’s a popular trend for fighters to claim fans are dumb, ignorant or unappreciative because they don’t support the fighter. As a result, the fighter has little to no leverage against the organization in regards to pay, media attention, placement on cards, or control of opponent choices.


Fighters will often talk about fighter pay when they aren’t being taken care of by their employer. Once they get to a point where they can be financially successful and help out their team or their friends, their concern over finances, pay-per-view points and opportunities seems to soften. Many fighters have spoken out about money or lack thereof, but almost all of these fighters were unhappy with what they were given. When those fighters got the money they wanted, the discussion as it pertains to other fighters softened or completely disappeared.

Remember José Aldo’s war with the UFC about fighter pay? When his situation changed, the conversation completely fell off the map.

Fighters will often cite loyalty and effort when discussing why they should get paid more, which makes perfect sense. These guys have fought injured, on short notice, and often for peanuts. It’s not crazy to expect reciprocation from the company. However, let’s say the roles were reversed. How many fighters would stay with a company when they are declining in quality, bonuses, base salaries, level of opposition and coverage? Fighters don’t just go to the UFC to fight the best, they go to get paid. It’s the same reason guys want to fight for certain promoters. The minute the promotion can’t do better than other organizations or can’t offer the fighter opportunities to do better for themselves, guys leave. Ask Eddie Alvarez about his departure from Bellator MMA.

Fighters often discuss fighting the best. Many want to do that, but part of fighting the best is that those guys generate the best paydays. Most fighters aren’t headliners or big earners. They don’t have big sponsors, typically. So, they have to fight the toughest fights if they want to keep their spot or prove their value. If they aren’t going to fight whomever is put in front of them, then why would they be kept around?

If fighters can face a lesser opponent who will increase their rating, garner more advertisements, or get them bigger paydays, then they will. The UFC’s Paige VanZant was never more than a second-tier fighter, but former champions, seasoned veterans and elite fighters have all called her out. She represents a big payday and a high-profile fight for any opponent. It’s not because she is the best or one of the best, but because the opportunity to get paid is there. The same could be said of her fellow UFC fighter Sage Northcutt.

On a much higher level, it’s the same thing with Conor McGregor and Georges St-Pierre. Lots of guys think McGregor is a one-dimensional chump who quits. That doesn’t sound like the best type of fighter, so why do guys call him out? Money. GSP hasn’t fought in years. Why have the current welterweight and middleweight champs wanted fights with him? Money. Why was UFC interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson asking for fights with Nate Diaz and the aforementioned McGregor? It’s the same reason McGregor wanted fights with Diaz and Floyd Mayweather Jr. It all boils down to money.

Mixed martial arts is a professional sport. These guys are businessmen and athletes. Many fans and fighters will try tell you something to the opposite, but talks of sponsorship, contracts, bonuses, salary and promotional push should tell you otherwise.

The advantage promotions have over fighters is teamwork. A promotion is made up of individuals who have a common goal, which is to make the promotion a success. Fighters have a common goal, but their goals all conflict with one another. There can only be one champion and a few faces of the sport. Often, helping someone reach their goal actually assists in the ability for you to reach your own goals. So, when it’s promotions against fighters, the promotion usually wins.

Fighters and promotions will come into conflict because their goals don’t always align. The organization wants to be the biggest star. As long as that scenario exists, their fighters’ fame is tied to them, which means the fighters’ paydays and sponsorships are also tied to the company. The fighter wants to be the biggest star, because once they do they get leverage which allows them to be famous and legitimate outside of the promotion. Those things don’t work hand in hand, though. If the promotion is the biggest brand, then there is no reason to pay the fighter more. If the fighter is the biggest brand, then they can force the promotion to pay more or do more on their behalf, which affects the other fighters who aren’t given the same leeway. It takes away from the value of the company, too. McGregor’s situation is a great example.

Fighters have preferences as far as entertainment. As serious a line of work as this is, it’s entertainment to the vast majority of people. If a fighter can understand that certain movies or music won’t get his or her dollar, then they have to understand why they won’t get particular fans’ dollars.

If someone says MMA is the only way they can provide, then they may be lying. For the vast majority of mixed martial artists, any regular job would require less of a financial investment, provide more benefits and generate more — as well as consistently higher — pay.