The UFC is under fire once again after a 2022 earnings report revealed that the promotion has an embarrassingly low 13% revenue share with their fighters.
Fighter pay has been a long-debated problem in the UFC. Multiple athletes have gone on record, revealing that they’ve had to borrow money, live at a gym, or even go without food despite being signed to one of the most profitable sports organizations on the globe. Recently, MMA journalist John S. Nash broke down the math on the promotion’s recent earnings report, revealing that between 2021 and 2022, the promotion has seen a significant increase in profits while fighter costs have somehow gone down.
“Last year, they had an earnings call, and in that earnings call, they detailed how much the fighters made and how much growth we’ve seen in fighter pay from 2005 to 2021,” Nash said in a recent YouTube video. “And I calculated that. It came out to $178.8 million dollars for fighter pay in 2021. That may not be exact, but based on the figures they gave, that’s the amount they should have paid the fighters, which is about 17.5% of revenue in 2021.
“Interestingly enough, they note in this filing that they were able to cut fighter expenses by $32.8 million from 2022 to 2021. That means in 2022, if my calculations are right, about 2021, they paid $146 million dollars to fighters, the total pay to fighters out of $1.431 billion. 13% of the revenue. 13% for compensation.
How we calculated current UFC fighter pay. pic.twitter.com/842HkP52nx
— John S. Nash (@heynottheface) June 25, 2023
“Now, that might not include other stuff the UFC includes in compensation, like drug testing, the insurance policy, and all these other things they include in compensation. But that would add another one and a half perfect to their pay. So, if it’s not included in that, they went from 13% to 14.5 %. It’s a pretty massive decrease, especially in a year when the revenue went up $110 million that year from the year before and the net income, the profits, went up almost $120 million.”
Does the Absence of Conor McGregor Explain the Decrease in UFC Revenue Share Between 2021 and 2022?
In a follow-up tweet, Nash addressed the fact that in 2021, Conor McGregor was listed on the payroll twice for having fought in January and July of that year, which is what could have attributed to the significant decrease in total fighter cost between 2021 and 2022. However, McGregor is said to earn tens of millions of dollars each time he steps inside the Octagon.
If his absence is directly linked to the nearly $33 million in decreased fighter expenses, that means the Irishman is pocketing roughly $15 million per fight. That’s still a fantastic night at the office any way you slice it, but it’s well under the amount that is regularly tossed around.
“Haven’t heard many point out that if the $32.8m decrease was mostly because there were 2 McGregor fights in 2021 vs none in 2022 his fights were adding around $15m in pay per fight, which is much lower than the $30m-50m often thrown out.”
Haven't heard many point out that if the $32.8m decrease was mostly because there were 2 McGregor fights in 2021 vs none in 2022 his fights were adding around $15m in pay per fight, which is much lower than the $30m-50m often thrown out. https://t.co/Yv9SxAD8Ug
— John S. Nash (@heynottheface) June 26, 2023
Even if that serves as a reasonable explanation for the promotion’s pathetic 13% revenue share in 2022, the fact remains that the UFC has one of the lowest revenue shares in all professional sports, regularly sitting well below 20%. Leagues like the MLB, NBA, and NHL all maintain a revenue share close to the 50% mark, meaning nearly half their profits are going back into the pockets of their athletes.
In the case of the UFC, all those profits seem to be going right back into the bank accounts of Dana White and Endeavor Group Holdings.