The quest to follow one’s passion or skill set often falls dormant in life’s pursuit to put food on the table. For many, it’s about getting paid ASAP, while for others, it’s a quest to determine what their price truly is.
There’s an old adage in life, which states ‘Time Is Money’, updated recently to include ‘ … Know Your Worth”. For professional Mixed Martial Artists, it seems to be the same question they have been facing since the inception of the sport on North American soil, way back in 1993.
To be somewhat fair, the going rate has gone up over the past 14 years, but realistically, for the vast majority, it’s still not enough. In the 90’s, you were lucky if you get paid $500 for a grass roots bout, $1000 if you were in a main event. If you did not get to the UFC, you would likely have never truly seen a return on your investment (generally paid for with blood, sweat and tears).
Nowadays, if you can make it to the big show, you may start off with $10K to show and an extra $10K to win. If you can stay healthy and get in three fights a year, you could make about $70K. That is, until you take into consideration the tax man, your management fees, paying your coaches, etc … $35K sounds more like it. With that, you now need to pay for basic living costs, like shelter, food, heat, etc.
Remain undefeated, and your earning potential will increase as well, but not as drastically impressive as one would assume. Unless you can catch lightning in a bottle (aka Conor McGregor), you may want to ensure you have other skills to fall back on.
UFC Lightweight Al Iaquinta discovered this over the past year or so, but acquiring his Real Estate license and is now also in the business of helping clients buy and sell homes. He has seen a light at the end of the tunnel and took matters into his own hands, realizing he can likely make more money with this venture than he can getting bruised and battered, day in and day out, competing as a professional fighter.
Last Saturday night, Iaquinta defeated Diego Sanchez via first round knockout. It was Al’s 10th fight with the UFC, but the first in over 2 years. He has been with the organization since 2012. He hinted he made $26K to show and $26K for the win: that’s one bout, $52K, of which 50% will likely go to the tax man and his manager, corners, etc.
Iaquinta loves fighting but is conflicted right now. He understands that his competition will only get tougher as he progresses up the rankings, and for the money he is getting paid, coupled with the physical abuse he endures in prepping for these fights, is questioning if it’s even worth it nowadays.
It’s likely because he says the dollar signs he can incur applying himself full-time to the Real Estate trade. Getting paid more money, with 99.9% less physical strain, poundings and trauma to his brain.
Believe me: there are far more ‘fighters’ who never went pro than have gone pro, solely for the financial compensation they could get, doing something else in life. It’s a tough decision to make, especially for those whose DNA is overly saturated with the competitive gene that sees them wanting to win at all costs, especially when it comes to mano-a-mano combat.
Iaquinta isn’t the first, but he has been able to shine a light on an issue that has never gone away in MMA. The fighters simply are not compensated enough. But the reality is, there is only so much they can do.
There are options. There are also solutions. There are even alternatives but each athlete must decide upon themselves what is right for them and in most cases, their families.
It’s a tough call to make, especially when fighting is all you have done for the past 10 years. To Fight or Not to Fight is challenging equation to figure out. But as time goes on, one should not be surprised if man of the fighters in the current era begin following Iaquinta’s lead.
All one has to do is go up down the history of the UFC’s roster and take a look at how many fighters were never cut, but simply disappeared. Many of them ended up getting full-time jobs, opened gyms, applied themselves to a trade. It’s not that they did not love the UFC and fighting, it’s that financially, it just wasn’t feasible.