Media Watch: Forbes Weighs In On UFC Fighter Pay Debate
By FCF Staff
In the wake of the escalating debate over the fairness of UFC fighters’ pay, a debate fueled by ESPN’s investigative report on the issue last week, leading business media outlet Forbes has weighed in on the hot topic.
Forbes contributor and economics professor Dr. Patrick Rishe looks at both ESPN’s and UFC’s side of the argument from an objective standpoint and puts the issue in perspective by bringing tournament theory in economics into play.
“Applied to sport and considering a sports world that is ever dependent upon media revenues, tournament theory yields pay structures that are skewed towards the top of the pay scale in order to elicit the greatest amount of effort from tournament competitors. The thinking being that if all competitors are exuding maximum effort, this may make for more competitive sport…thereby boosting consumer interest from live spectators as well as a television or internet audience.
The sport of golf is a perfect example of this model. Take last weekend’s Sony Open in Hawaii won by Johnson Wagner and review the pay scale posted on the PGA Tour’s website. The total purse for the event was $5.6 million, and Mr. Wagner’s winner’s share was nearly 18% of the purse. Comparatively, 4 players tied for 2nd place and each received 6.5% of the purse. Then the 4 players tied for 6th each received 3.2% of the purse. Players outside the top 22 received less than 1% of the purse, and players that didn’t make the cut after the first 2 rounds received nothing.
Similar income distributions can be found in tennis as well as auto racing…”
Rishe wisely distinguishes the sport of MMA from these other sports by pointing out the physical damage that fighters often incur in the cage or ring and, that because of this unique factor, one can sympathize with lesser paid UFC fighters who say they are struggling to make ends meet.
Rishe commends UFC owners Lorenzo Feritta and Dana White for their vision of transforming a once fringe sport that few believed in and others shunned, into the incredibly successful enterprise that it has become. However, the author also draws the conclusion that, because of the sport’s physical dangers, fighters “need better collective representation to ensure that basic needs such as training and medical expenses are not coming out of their pockets to the same degree as they are now. As such, a collective voice is much more warranted in the UFC than on the PGA or ATP tours…”
The author draws a parallel between the physical injuries an MMA fighter is vulnerable to and the high number of concussions sustained by NHL players this hockey season. All NHL teams, like all teams in the NFL and the NBA, are governed by a collective bargaining agreement between team owners and the league’s players union.