On August 17th, the UFC made its official debut on the new Fox Sports 1 network by putting on UFC Fight Night 26 from TD Garden in Boston, Mass. The night of fights was a rousing event that had a very well rounded and entertaining mix of combat.
In the main event, Chael Sonnen made short work of former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by dominating him throughout the entire first round en route to a guillotine submission victory. In the co-main event, former Strikeforce Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem was on his way to finishing Travis Browne with an onslaught of strikes, but “The Demolition Man” got careless. Standing directly in front of several front kicks from Browne, one finally put him onto the canvas.
It was a disappointing night for both Rua and Overeem, but at least they were well compensated for their efforts. Here’s a rundown of the UFC Fight Night 26 main card salaries (via MMA Junkie):
Chael Sonnen: $100,000 (no win bonus)
def. Mauricio Rua: $175,000
Travis Browne: $48,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)
def. Alistair Overeem: $285,714.29
Urijah Faber: $120,000 (includes $60,000 win bonus)
def. Yuri Alcantara: $16,000
Matt Brown: $66,000 (includes $33,000 win bonus)
def. Mike Pyle: $45,000
John Howard: $28,000 (includes $14,000 win bonus)
def. Uriah Hall: $10,000
Michael Johnson: $36,000 (includes $18,000 win bonus)
def. Joe Lauzon: $27,000
Disclaimer: The figures do not include deductions for items such as insurance, licenses and taxes. Additionally, the figures do not include money paid by sponsors, which can oftentimes be a substantial portion of a fighter’s income. They also do not include any other “locker room” or special discretionary bonuses the UFC oftentimes pays.
Now, with fighter pay a hot topic in MMA, this event’s payroll may bring some interesting points of discussion to light. I think that the overarching topic that must be addressed and is reflected here is the issue of overpaying popular but decreasingly relevant veterans such as Rua and Overeem. Decreasing the bloated salaries for name fighters who can no longer hang with the top fighters of their division would be an excellent way to give much-needed money to the lesser known but talented and hungry fighters in the Octagon.
That’s not to say that “Shogun” and Overeem haven’t earned their lofty pay status, because they have. But to earn the big bucks, you have t perform at close to a championship level. And Rua and Overeem have simply not done that as of late.
They’ve both lost two in a row. Rua could do absolutely nothing against Sonnen’s wrestling at UFN 26, despite looking great in the pre-fight buildup. He couldn’t do much against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on FOX 5 last December either, and his last win was over Brandon Vera.
Overeem isn’t far behind, but at least he was winning his last two fights. He didn’t have his had raised, however, as “Bigfoot” Silva came back to knock him out at UFC 156 before Browne weathered “The Reem’s” early storm to finish the former K-1 champion yet again.
A payday of over $285,000 for Overeem and $175,000 for Shogun would go a long way in dispersing pay to other fighters who may have performed better in Boston. A great example of this at UFN 26 is Yuri Alcantara. Alcantara, an ultra-tough Bantamweight from Brazil, earned a paltry $16,000 for his loss to Urijah Faber. True, he was dominated by Faber in the end, but had “The California Kid” mounted in the first.
Matt Brown could have perhaps been paid higher. “The Immortal” has been finishing off opponents left and right with ruthless efficiency, and without his win bonus, he’d have taken home $33,000. Joe Lauzon could be another case. Lauzon did absolutely nothing against Michael Johnson’s lightning quick striking at UFN 26, but that’s beside the point. Lauzon, the proud owner of an astounding 12 Fight Night bonuses, has done nothing but put on ridiculously exciting bouts for UFC fans. No, his fight in Boston wasn’t one of them, but does he deserve to be making only $27,000 per fight at this point in his career?
There are a ton of aging veterans in MMA right now, and it may be time for the UFC to re-evaluate how much it values their services, especially if they continue to lose. On one hand, fighters like Josh Barnett may still have some gas left in the tank, but Frank Mir, the man he recently finished at UFC 164, may not be ready to take too many more beatings at Heavyweight. Rua, Mir, and Overeem have been through a lot of wars, a lot of knockouts, and they enjoy high paydays for their efforts.
But it’s getting to a point where it’s not necessarily quality over quantity for the UFC’s money. True, they have name recognition, but is the promotion better served by paying their up-and-coming stars that are actually delivering motivated performances? Fighters may be soon calling to unionize due to this issue. Should the UFC stop paying declining fighters such high sums?
Outer Photo: Winslow Townson of USA TODAY Sports