Being a mixed martial artist is a tough gig. You have to hustle for fights, sponsors and quite often a flexible day job while trying to train. It’s a brutal lifestyle, and one that is rarely sustainable over the long term. The sponsor market is drying up, thanks in no small part to the UFC’s Reebok deal. This has caused long-time MMA brands like Tapout to shift focus away from the sport and out of the sponsorship market. This makes it even more difficult for up and coming fighters to support their careers. There are enterprises like Tip-A-Fighter that aim to help fans contribute to those they enjoy. However, those endeavors aren’t proven to significantly contribute to a fighter’s income. So what’s a mixed martial artist to do?
Invicta FC fighter Jessy Jess (5-2, 1 NC), currently training at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, is embarking on a bold experiment. She is set to become the first fighter of any significant presence to have a Patreon account. For those who don’t know, Patreon is an online service that allows fans to pledge monthly contributions to artists – or in this case, athletes – in exchange for exclusive content.
Depending on the person or group behind the account, this could be anything from tutorials and vlogs to group chats and exclusive memorabilia. YouTube sensation Leo Moracchioli, who creates weekly metal covers of popular songs, has been able to leverage his fanbase into over $3000 of regular income per video. Comic book writer Aubrey Sitterson has used Patreon campaigns to fund a pair of podcasts that supplement the unsteady income of his main job with an additional $1400 a month. If a diverse group of creative types can use the service, what’s stopping mixed martial artists?
As long as fighters are willing to go on camera a few times a month, there’s nothing stopping them from starting a Patreon campaign. Once a person has signed up, Patreon will process pledges for a 5% commission, and direct the money to the content creator and provide them with a place to post their content. Different pledge levels can get different and enhanced benefits, such as access to group chats and exclusive merchandise. One Patreon campaigner, the death metal band Allegaeon, has tiers going up to $250 a month, allowing patrons backstage and soundcheck access to any shows they attend in addition to dinners with the band when they are in the patron’s area. The possibilities of what fighters can offer to their patrons are just as vast as what artists can, ranging from the aforementioned vlogs, to private meet & greets at events, or even private lessons. This is all based on what the fighter feels comfortable offering.
The financial situation of so many mixed martial artists is best described as “precarious.” Knowing that, it is incumbent upon each fighter to know what their options are for generating income. While it may not eliminate the need for a day job, a good Patreon campaign could certainly help alleviate some of their burdens. Only time will tell if this becomes a common moneymaking tool for these athletes.