There has been much talk of late about fighter pay and all who might know, would be aware of the fact that I believe it could be better.
With that said, I began to consider some of (UFC Executive Vice President of Business Development) Chuck Liddell’s remarks from this past week and in particular, from the point-of-view of fighter self-promotion.
“You're startin’ out no one knows who you are. No one cares. You don't get paid, period. It's simple.”
“If you’re an entertaining fighter… (and) they want to see you fight you’ll get paid…the guys at the top are the fighters that are supposed to get paid, because they're the guys that are bringing people in, they’re bringing eyes to the TV, getting pay-per-views buys, and putting people in the seats. I mean, that's what it comes down to. You want to get that, beat everybody.”
Buried within that is a simple truth for fighters and that is this, a fighter must promote him or herself and that promotion is not just going to happen; a fighter must make it happen.
If we read between the lines, what Liddell is really saying is that not only do fighters have to put on amazing performances in the Octagon, but that they also have to be known to the fans.
To this point, we should be shocked at how little self-promotion the fighters do. In particular, they fail to use social media to its fullest extent and capitalize on it. The even stranger thing is that even without raising the issue of lesser known fighters, that even champions, contenders and ranked fighters fail to make full use of social media and to Liddell’s point, if the fans don't know who you are 'you don't get paid.”
Many fighters seem to think that simply because they're on Facebook or Twitter, that the job is done. Yet, most fighters fail to have their own YouTube channels or websites. Most seem to miss the point that they need to update their online presence regularly and to do so with fresh and current material.
Simply put, a fighter cannot rely solely on their Octagon performances and the 2 or 3 fights they may get per year and the “X” amount of camera time that might come with it, to wow the fans and to the point of remembering who they are and / or caring. They must build a following and a relationship with both their current and prospective fans and a significant portion of that is going to happen outside the Octagon and more so, online.
It’s easy to see what Liddell means when he says “no one knows who you are”, because fans don’t, at least not casual the fans and in order to follow fighters properly, a fan (hardcore or casual) not only has to dig, but want to dig and even if they do, there is probably nothing to find.
Even if we look at the 3 biggest names in MMA (GSP, Silva, Jones) even they are spotty regarding their online presences. Of course, the advantage to them is that people already know who they are and that they are already getting paid. However and nonetheless, there is precious little (online) between fights for their fans to enjoy and to sustain themselves on and given that they all have money and could hire someone to do the work for them, it becomes even more frustrating and less understandable, as to why they don't have a greater online presences.
Of fighters on the make, consider the case of Johnny Hendricks as an example. Big Rig has a huge fight coming up against GSP on November 16th, yet and other than giving an interview if someone calls him, he has done and is doing nothing to promote either himself or his fight. He has no official YouTube channel or website; he’s posting no videos or photos of himself in the run-up to the fight, subsequently, there’s nothing to follow or keep up with. Sadly, the same is also true of GSP, but again, he’s already getting paid.
Fighters who are breaking into the UFC seem to be in even worse shape and understand the point even less.
Put it all together and one can begin to understand Liddell’s and the UFC’s point on higher fighter pay. Fighters need to give the promoter more to promote and more to work with, then just the fights. They need to produce an online presence and one with regularly updated content that garners fan attention and gives the UFC a reason to pay them more.
The facts are such, that fighters spend more time out of the Octagon than in it and if they want fans to “know” who they are and in an effort to get larger paychecks, then they need to start leveraging the internet more effectively and giving the fans something to chew on regularly; particularly between and leading up to, bouts.
On this subject, it would be well-and-fair for White or Liddell to ask fighters, “Other than fighting what are you doing to get known?”