After every event the UFC discloses their fighter payrolls to the State Athletic Commission or IRS or whoever it is that insists on seeing these things, and then a fairly predictable routine follows: 1) MMA fans marvel at how little some of their favorite fighters are making to entertain them with violence for $39.95 on pay-per-view, and 2) the UFC tells us all to calm down because this list doesn’t include bonuses and sponsorship money and spare change found in the dressing room sofa (you know, the one that sits beneath the poster for Good Luck Chuck).
It’s fairly well documented that official fighter payouts are usually much higher than what is reported by the UFC. Former welterweight champ Matt Hughes recently commented on a radio show that his disclosed payout for his last fight was nowhere near what he actually took back to the farm.
So fine. The fighters are getting more than the UFC is telling us about. I could turn around and ask why they’re being so secretive about it, but I won’t. They don’t have to tell us everything about their finances and I can understand why they wouldn’t.
But with that being said, I was absolutely shocked when I looked at the fighter payouts for UFC 76 and saw that Keith Jardine made $14,000 for beating Chuck Liddell, while Liddell took home $500,000 for his defeat. Regardless of the explanations — Jardine had a previously negotiated contract, Liddell is the pay-per-view draw, etc. — that seems pretty ridiculous.
You’d like to think that if you step into the cage and beat one of the world’s top-ranked fighters, you’d walk away with enough money to at least buy yourself a Toyota Camry. Maybe Jardine got back to his dressing room to find a pile of cash waiting for him, or maybe he was promised a better contract just for taking the fight, but he took a big risk stepping up against Liddell and got a pretty meager payday for his efforts.
What’s really sad is that UFC contracts typically offer mid-level guys like Jardine (mid-level when he signed, mind you) a show fee and a win bonus. That means Jardine probably would have gotten $7,000 if he lost to Chuck Liddell, which is what the UFC was betting would happen. Considering what the UFC and Liddell made off the fight, seven grand is nothing.
I’m not saying Jardine should have made more than Liddell just because he won, or that they should even necessarily be in the same tax bracket. I understand that Liddell sold that fight in terms of tickets and pay-per-view buys and that’s where the money comes from. But I sincerely hope the UFC is compensating Jardine appropriately for his performance. At least give him a lifetime supply of Xyience.
And for Pete’s sake, Chuck, give him a ride home.