The Secret Lives of Bonuses

Randy Couture’s parting shots at the UFC first put the spotlight on the organization’s bonus system, but a look at the disclosed fighter payroll for UFC 82 also tells an interesting story.  For example, take Chris Leben.  He recently signed a new deal with the UFC to up his show money and win money to $25 grand each.  Not bad for “The Crippler”.  But in garnering knockout of the night honors he added a $60,000 win bonus to his final paycheck for the event.  Which means he more than doubled his pay thanks to what is essentially a subjective decision made by UFC brass.

I’m not saying Leben didn’t deserve it.  The way he went after Sakara and displayed his own brawlability in the process ought to be worth something.  But let’s consider for a moment the other side of the coin, which fittingly enough features Josh Koscheck.  He also won a pretty exciting TKO victory on Saturday night, but he didn’t see any bonus money, at least that we know of.  This is because, at least in part, he’s on not-so-great terms with the UFC these days as he tries to renegotiate his contract.  That’s also why they stuck him on the preliminary card, just as they did with Andrei Arlovski.

That’s not to say that Koscheck deserved the bonus any more than Leben did.  But it is worth noting that politics within the UFC can have a grave effect on a man’s pocketbook.  Playing nice at contract time might increase your chances of getting a fat bonus check worth more than your agreed upon payout, but at the same time it builds resentment, as it did with Couture.

Take a look at how Anderson Silva fared at UFC 82.  Despite being the organization’s most talented fighter and a dominant champion, he gets only $70,000 in guaranteed money when he steps in the Octagon.  Brock Lesnar, on the other hand, made a reported $250,000 for his debut loss at UFC 81.  Fortunately for Silva, he made up some ground in bonus money.  He got a $70,000 win bonus, plus another $120,000 for both Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night.  Add it all up, and he just edged out Lesnar.

This isn’t necessarily an indictment of the UFC, but it’s worth pointing out that this is a hard way to make a living.  Imagine going to work and knowing that you might make a certain amount of money, though if you perform well and are on good terms with your employer you might make twice as much.  It’s sort of like sales commissions, but it’s the ‘and’ in that situation that can lead to problems.  Just ask Randy Couture.

In case you’re curious, here’s how the rest of the fighter payroll shaped up.  Thanks to Cage Potato for the info.

Anderson Silva — $260,000 ($70,000 to show, $70,000 to win, plus $120,000 in bonuses)
Dan Henderson — $160,000 ($100,000 to show, $60,000 for Fight of the Night bonus)
Andrei Arlovski — $170,000 ($105,000 to show, $65,000 to win)
Heath Herring — $140,000 ($70,000 to show, $70,000 to win)
Chris Leben — $110,000 ($25,000 to show, $25,000 to win, $60,000 for Knockout of the Night bonus)
Jon Fitch — $60,000 ($30,000 to show, $30,000 to win)
Diego Sanchez — $60,000 ($30,000 to show, $30,000 to win)
Cheick Kongo — $30,000
Yushin Okami — $28,000 ($14,000 to show, $14,000 to win)
Evan Tanner — $25,000
Josh Koscheck — $20,000 ($10,000 to show, $10,000 to win)
Alessio Sakara — $17,000
Luigi Fioravanti — $16,000 ($8,000 to show, $8,000 to win)
Luke Cummo — $16,000
Jorge Gurgel — $14,000 ($7,000 to show, $7,000 to win)
Dustin Hazelett — $12,000
Chris Wilson — $12,000
Jake O’Brien — $11,000
David Bielkheden — $8,000
John Halverson — $3,000


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Filed under MMA, Sports, UFC, UFC 82

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