Jared Cannonier clears up his statements on UFC fighter pay. This past weekend saw two top-ranked middleweights headline a UFC on ESPN. Cannonier ranked at number 3 in the world, took a close and hard-fought decision over Kelvin Gastelum. In the post-fight interview, he told Daniel Cormier that he is broke. Cannonier sat down with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour to Discuss fighter pay.
Jared Cannonier on UFC Fighter Pay
“I should have six figures in my account that I don’t even need to touch,” Cannonier explained to Helwani, “I shouldn’t have to worry about ‘if I get injured and I can’t fight anymore, what the hell am I going to do?’ Unfortunately, that is a situation that a lot of us fighters are in —that I’m in myself.”
Cannonier sat down on The MMA Hour this past Monday and compared UFC fighter pay to other professional level athletes, “I am an elite level athlete. I would like to get paid like an elite-level athlete. Like the ones in the NFL and NBA and the ones playing baseball and soccer and doing all that stuff. They get sponsors but they don’t need sponsors. All they need is that check through the organization. That’s what we need here in the UFC. That’s what we would all like.”
UFC Fighter Pay Compared to Other Sports
Rookies in their first year of being on an NFL team will make $365,000 annually. An NBA player in their first year will earn $838,464, but in their second year, this number increases to $1,349,383. Similarly, NHL players were guaranteed minimum pay of $750,000 for the 2021 – 2022 season.
Those numbers are due to the players having a collective bargaining agreement which states that players of the league are entitled to 48.5% of revenue in the NBA or NFL, respectively. UFC athletes have no such agreement to assist with fighter pay.
For comparison, UFC fighter pay combined is typically less than 20% of the UFC revenue. UFC fighter pay averages approximately $148,000, according to one source. And unlike professional sports teams, UFC fighters must pay for their training camps out of their own pocket.
And these numbers are known publicly now due to the ongoing multiple class-action antitrust lawsuits being levied against the UFC. These lawsuits state that “Zuffa violated antitrust laws by paying UFC fighters far less than they were entitled to receive…Locking fighters into long-term, exclusive contracts which, the fighters say, prevents them from competing elsewhere…Using its market dominance to coerce fighters to re-sign contracts, allegedly making the contracts effectively perpetual and preventing fighters from reaching free agency…acquiring and then closing down other MMA promoters that threatened the UFC’s dominance.” [Overview]
UFC parent company, publicly traded, Endeavor recently, “increased its 2021 revenue target to $4.8 billion to $4.85 billion after forecasting $4.76 billion to $4.83 billion in June.” And the UFC saw a very strong second quarter in 2021; revenue of $258.9 million. The UFC and Endeavor are profitable and wealthy.
Cannonier on Fighter Pay and the UFC
“I’m not here to say the UFC isn’t paying me,” Cannonier also took some time in the interview with Helwani to defend the UFC and its pay, “Because I’m getting paid pretty good from the UFC. It’s just that money don’t last forever. I’m not out here balling out of control, I’m not splurging or anything like that. I’m not stupid, I don’t spend my money on dumb stuff but it’s just life I guess. I would like to get paid.”
“I’m not complaining. It’s the UFC pay structure, we sign our contracts,” Middleweight Cannonier continued, “But yes, I do want a bigger check. I don’t want to be like these guys we see in the NFL, I’m not one of these guys to be out stunting on people and flossing and splurging like that. There’s bigger and better things I could be doing with my money.”
Jared Cannonier has been active in the UFC since 2015, has won multiple Performance of the Night bonuses, has been the main event on ESPN in multiple bouts, and is ranked number 3 officially at middleweight.
“I’ve never been happier. This is the best job I’ve ever had in my life. I think the UFC takes very good care of its athletes. They make sure we have everything we need, especially during fight week. It’s the premier organization for mixed martial arts in the world. I’m part of history in that regard. I’m grateful and I’m blessed to be part of this organization. Yes, I do want more money. I would like one fight to be able to hold me up for at least two years, not one. Then off of that, we build off that.”