MMA fighter salaries have been a topic of controversy for quite some time now. While some fighters are paid well, others struggle to make ends meet. With no union to represent their interests, fighters lack control over their futures and their pay.
In comparison, other professional sports leagues like the NFL and MLB have a minimum salary of $750,000 and $720,000, respectively. However, the minimum salary for a UFC fighter in 2022 was $12,000 per fight, with a win bonus of $12,000. The debate surrounding fighter pay also exists in other MMA promotions, such as Bellator and ONE.
The Professional Fighters League (PFL) has attempted to address this issue with their tournament format. The PFL has received investments from business investors like former MLB player Alex Rodriguez, which have allowed them to pay their fighters better. The PFL offers a $1 million prize to fighters who win their tournament, in addition to their regular pay.
Unlike other promotions, the PFL’s entire platform is based on a tournament format, and fighters compete for the $1 million prize if they make it to and win the finals. Fighters also receive a separate paycheck. For instance, Kayla Harrison won the first PFL tournament for women in 2019 and was paid $125,000, while Bobby Jo Dalziel received $25,000.
The PFL’s purses have continued to grow, as shown in the salaries from the last few PFL events. Fighters, such as Shane Burgos, have expressed interest in the PFL due to the better salary they receive. Recently, even Jake Paul signed with the PFL to form the Super Fight division, which offers fighters a chance to earn at least 50% of the PFL’s pay-per-view revenue.
“Aside from the million dollars to win the whole thing, my money per fight is phenomenal. I’m making way more money— it takes about four UFC fights, with the show and win money, to make what I’m making for a PFL fight,” Burgos said. “So it was almost like a no-brainer when it comes to the money. It was hard, it wasn’t an easy decision, obviously, because I did love the UFC, I loved fighting for the UFC, I loved the organization, I loved saying I was fighting for the UFC.”
“But at the end of the day, I’ve got to look at myself in the mirror, I’ve got to look at my wife in the face and my kids and tell them that this s— was worth it. The money that I’m making now, there’s no doubt that this is going to be worth it.”- Shane Burgos said.