Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bright Lights, Big Zeroes: John Cholish Pulls Back the Curtain on Fighter Pay

As fans, and as armchair experts, we often assume fighters in the UFC have sponsors lining up to hand them money, supplements, training gear, cars, chicks, whatever.

What we don't realize is that the totem pole of sponsorships drops off drastically when you're not on the main or televised card. To say nothing of a guy on a facebook prelim. He may be fortunate and through training or whatever networking to know some business owners that help him out/sponsor him, but it's a far cry from the costs of putting together a camp to prepare for the  big leagues of MMA/the UFC.

John Cholish comments on his loss to Gleison Tibau this weekend, "I have great coaches that take time off and travel. They deserve money, as well. To be completely honest, on a fight like this, I'm losing money to come down here. Flights, hotel rooms, food – and that doesn't even cover the cost of the time I have to pay for my coaches for training. It's funny because people talk about the fighters, but at the same time there's camps and coaches behind the fighters that you don't even see. So if a fighter is having a tough time making ends meet, how do you think his coaches are doing?"

There is not a lot of trickle down money for the support staff if you do the math. Prelim guys on the UFC are getting what, 3k to fight, 3k to win, 5k to fight, 5k to win?
You fight 4 times a year and you have $20,000 pre tax.
"Although his paydays for his losses to Castillo and Tibau won't be disclosed, Cholish made $4,000 to show and a $4,000 win bonus for his victory over Clarke 18 months ago."

And you're supposed to be a professional full-time fighter in the premier organization in the world?

I see shows like "Caged" on MTV, and these guys in the middle of nowhere thinking training UFC is a way out of poverty or out of whatever bad situation there is, and yes, training and Jiu-Jitsu have made me a far better person than I would ever be. I would disagree with the characterization that this is some ticket to a great life and millions of dollars. There's a handful of GSPs, Anderson Silvas, and Chuck Liddells in this sport. The notion that at any level other than the top of the UFC is actually livable pay comparable to a full-time job with benefits is laughable. The fighter health insurance was  a huge step in the right direction, but fighting in a pro level fight for at best maybe $6,000 dollars and you may fight 3-4 times in a year for what is the premier organization in the world is a far cry from being the big leagues.

I was fortunate to fight for an organization as an amateur that paid me travel money and actually ran a well put together promotion. I was also fortunate in knowing the owner of Cageside MMA who is as nice a guy in the business as I've ever met who has helped a ton of fighters along the way, far above and beyond virtually every other brand you've probably heard of.

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