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Thursday, April 07, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Full Breakdown of UFC 51 Fighter Salaries
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
UFC 51 Fighter Salaries
Event took place on February 5, 2005
-Tito Ortiz: $175,000 ($125,000 for fighting; $50,000 win bonus)
-Vitor Belfort: $100,000 ($100,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $40,000)
-Tim Sylvia: $40,000 ($40,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $40,000)
-Evan Tanner: $38,000 ($18,000 for fighting; $20,000 win bonus)
-Andrei Arlovski: $30,000 ($12,000 for fighting; $18,000 win bonus)
-Nick Diaz: $11,000 ($6,000 for fighting; $5,000 win bonus)
-Phil Baroni: $10,000 ($10,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $10,000)
-Paul Buentello: $8,000 ($4,000 for fighting; $4,000 win bonus)
-Karo Parisyan: $8,000 ($4,000 for fighting; $4,000 win bonus)
-Mike Kyle: $6,000 ($3,000 for fighting, $3,000 win bonus)
-David Terrell: $6,000 ($6,000 for fighting, win bonus would have been $6,000)
-Justin Eilers: $5,000 ($5,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $5,000)
-Chris Lytle: $4,000 ($4,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $4,000)
-David Loiseau: $4,000 ($2,000 for fighting; $2,000 win bonus)
-Pete Sell: $4,000 ($2,000 for fighting; $2,000 win bonus)
-James Irvin: $3,000 ($3,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $3,000)
-Drew Fickett: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
-Gideon Ray: $2,000 ($2,000 for fighting; win bonus would have been $2,000)
Total Fighter Payroll: $456,000
Comparative Notes on Total Fighter Payroll
UFC 48: $586,000
UFC 49: $535,000
UFC 51: $456,000
Analysis of UFC 51 Fighter Salaries
-Tito Ortiz was the highest-paid fighter on the UFC 51 card. Tito's contract for the past four fights has been $125,000 to fight and $50,000 more to win. Tito has now completed his six-fight UFC contract, which was to originally pay him $80,000 for each fight and an additional $80,000 for each win.
What's interesting to note is how much more Tito is being paid than Chuck Liddell. Tito has been making $125,000 and $50,000; while Liddell made $60,000 to fight and $60,000 more to win in his most recent outing. That is likely to change, with Couture and Liddell becoming the two highest-paid fighters in the UFC, because of the exposure Couture and Liddell are getting on Spike TV. More people have watched The Ultimate Fighter than have watched all of Tito's fights combined, so I would be shocked if Liddell is still making $60,000 and $60,000 for his next UFC contract.
Before UFC 51, a contract was offered to Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock for them to fight at some point... a contract that Shamrock signed and Ortiz didn't. The reason is now clear: As a free agent, Ortiz is seeking a huge raise that would make him the highest-paid fighter in the UFC by far. In an interview with Sherdog's Josh Gross before UFC 51, Tito's agent said that Ortiz would be seeking a minimum of $300,000 per fight. And that's not $150,000 to fight and $150,000 more to win; the agent said Tito wanted at least $300,000 for any given fight in guaranteed money, win or lose.
The contract demands from the Ortiz camp are all the more shocking when you consider the massive hit that Ortiz recently took in his reputation as a PPV draw. Zuffa had a string of pay-per-views with good buy rates, including approximately 80,000 buys for UFC 49, which headlined with Couture vs. Belfort, and with Liddell in a "second from the top" position. UFC 50, which had an advertised main event of Tito Ortiz vs. Guy Mezger right up until the last minute, drew somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 to 40,000 buys according to the Observer Newsletter, an atrociously bad buy rate not seen since UFC 42. Tito's reputation for being able to draw good PPV buy rates on his own was shattered, and even if UFC 51 ends up being a PPV success, Tito's drawing power will still be mitigated by the PPV failure of UFC 50.
Seeking a huge raise and with no financial leverage on his side, Tito Ortiz once again proved what a shrewd and calculating businessman he is with his post-fight performance. Ortiz called out Chuck Liddell and Ken Shamrock, naturally causing both of them to get into verbal confrontations with him, and helping to create an artificially inflated impression of the demand for Ortiz vs. Shamrock II or Ortiz vs. Liddell II. There's no doubt that both of those fights would draw PPV buys, but would it be worth it for Zuffa to pay Ortiz a minimum of $300,000 in guaranteed money for both fights? That will be up to Zuffa to decide.
There are a lot of questions about Tito Ortiz' MMA future, but two things are clear. One is that whatever salary Ortiz may or may not get from the UFC in the future, it will have to be within the context of Couture and Liddell now being much bigger stars than he is due to the exposure from The Ultimate Fighter. Two is that whether he would want to or not, Ortiz will not be fighting on the April 9th live special on Spike TV, he will not be fighting on the April 16th UFC 52 card, and he will not be fighting in the first round of Pride's 205-pound Grand Prix in April. Ortiz was officially diagnosed with a broken nose after his fight with Vitor Belfort at UFC 51, and even if he recovers from a broken nose quicker than most athletes do, he still wouldn't be ready to fight in April. Any future that Ortiz may or may not have with the UFC or Pride is not going to start until after those events have taken place.
-If there's one other thing that sticks out about the UFC 51 salaries, it's the fact that Phil Baroni was still paid $10,000 to fight and $10,000 more to win, a salary that is well above average in the UFC. Other UFC fighters, some on this very card, have had to start over on the UFC pay scale with salaries of $2,000 to fight and $2,000 to win after a single loss. Going into his UFC 51 fight with Pete Sell, Baroni had gone 0-3 in the UFC over the previous two years.
-Elsewhere on the UFC 51 card, Vitor Belfort finished out the last fight on a contract that paid him $100,000 for each fight and an additional $40,000 for each win. Vitor may have been worth that high salary as a big-name free agent when the contract was signed in 2001, but he may or may not be worth that now after losing two consecutive high-profile fights in the UFC. Working in Belfort's favor is the fact that a lot of people think the judges should have given him the decision victory by a 29-28 margin instead of awarding the victory to Ortiz by the same margin.
Still, a loss is ultimately a loss, and that's how it's going to be recorded in the record books. At this point in Belfort's career, the UFC may or may not be interested in continuing to pay him the same high salary, but it could be a moot point. As reported on the MMAWeekly SoundOff Forum after UFC 51, Belfort is said to be leaning towards Pride and is interested in entering Pride's upcoming 16-man, 205-pound Grand Prix tournament. Pride is a much bigger company than the UFC with far more money to throw around, so they might end up paying Belfort however much he wants, or at least more than the UFC would be able to pay him. Also influencing Belfort's decision to lean towards Pride is the fact that he has returned to the Brazilian Top Team, which has strong ties to Pride.
-Andrei Arlovski, took a risk in his contract for UFC 51 and had it pay off in a big way. Arlovski's contract for his previous fight, a UFC 47 victory over Cabbage, paid him $15,000 to fight and $8,000 more to win. For his UFC 51 fight against Sylvia, Arlovski re-negotiated and got a new contract that paid him $12,000 to fight and $18,000 more to win. Arlovski took a lower guaranteed amount in exchange for a higher win bonus, and as a result of that risk paying off, his gross earnings were $30,000 for the Sylvia fight as opposed to $23,000 for his previous fight in the UFC. It would be reasonable to expect Arlovski to get a big raise now that he is the UFC's Interim Heavyweight Champion.
-After being vacant for a ridiculously long time period of over two years, the UFC Middleweight Championship now has a home on Evan Tanner's shoulders. People don't realize it, but Tanner is one of the fighters with the most wins in the UFC, and that finally paid off for him with a championship belt at UFC 51. Tanner's overall record in the UFC is 10-2, including 7-2 in the "Zuffa-era UFC." He has not only won his last four UFC fights, but he has also won seven of his last eight fights in the UFC. Tanner's stature in the UFC is starting to show up in the checkbook, as his previous salary of $15,000 to fight and $15,000 more to win was increased at UFC 51 to the new mark of $18,000 to fight and $20,000 more to win.
-Fighters tend to get paid less as their weight class gets lower, but welterweight Nick Diaz stands as a case study of fighters who get paid more in the UFC as they establish themselves more. Diaz made $2,000 to fight and $2,000 more to win for his UFC debut, a victory over Jeremy Jackson. His paycheck was increased slightly to the new mark of $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win for his next UFC fight, a knockout victory over Robbie Lawler. After a high-profile win like that, Diaz got a raise with a new contract that paid him $6,000 to fight and $5,000 more to win, a contract that he fought under at UFC 49 and again at UFC 51. At this point in his career, Diaz is 3-1 in the UFC, with his only loss being a decision loss to fellow welterweight standout Karo Parisyan.
-Despite beating Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan is slightly lower than Diaz on the UFC pay totem pole because he is only on a two-fight winning streak in the UFC, whereas Diaz is on a three-fight winning streak in the UFC. Like Diaz, Parisyan made $2,000 to fight and $2,000 more to win in his first UFC fight. Like Diaz, Parisyan had a contract for $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win for his second UFC fight. The difference is that Parisyan lost his second UFC fight, whereas Diaz knocked out Robbie Lawler in his second UFC fight. So while Diaz got a raise, Parisyan's salary stayed at $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win. Parisyan's salary going into his UFC 51 fight against Chris Lytle was $4,000 to fight and $4,000 to win, and the fact that Parisyan racked up another impressive victory should ensure that he continues to move higher on the UFC pay scale. Parisyan is 3-1 in the UFC, with his only loss being a close decision loss to Georges St. Pierre.
-David Terrell made more for his UFC debut and more for his second UFC fight than most fighters do, in large part because the UFC had to strike a deal with the Pancrase organization in Japan just to have the right to use Terrell on a UFC card. Terrell made $3,000 to fight and $5,000 more to win for his UFC debut. At UFC 51, fighting for a title belt, Terrell's contract was for $6,000 to fight and $6,000 more to win. After losing decisively to Evan Tanner, Terrell probably won't be getting a raise anytime soon, but he could still potentially be a force in the UFC's middleweight division. Terrell is yet another victim of MMA "bandwagon-ism," but as history has shown us, losing one fight does not mean that you're incompetent as a fighter.
-Chris Lytle has been steadily rising through the ranks of the UFC pay scale, making $2,000 to fight and $2,000 more to win at UFC 47; then making $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win at UFC 49; and at UFC 51 making $4,000 to fight and $4,000 more to win. Lytle lost to Karo Parisyan by decision at UFC 51, but has still won two of his last three UFC fights (his previous two UFC fights were submission wins over Tiki Ghosen and Ronald Jhun). I would expect Lytle to still be in the UFC after his decision loss to Parisyan, though his pay could be rolled back slightly or at the very least stay at its current level rather than increasing.
-David Loiseau was previously a victim of the "one and done" philosophy that the UFC sometimes uses. After making an impressive UFC debut in 2003 with a knockout win over Mark Weir, Loiseau lost his next UFC fight by decision to Jorge Rivera and was not seen or heard from again in the UFC. Finally, Loiseau was given another chance in the UFC, though at a reduced salary of $2,000 to fight and $2,000 more to win, and he took advantage of the opportunity with a victory over GIdeon Ray.
-When Robbie Lawler had to pull out of his fight with Phil Baroni, the expectations weren't very high for Pete Sell. He hadn't fought in ten months, he was taking the fight on a month's notice, and he only had five fights in his young MMA career. Sell took the fight against Baroni for a purse of $2,000 to fight and $2,000 more to win. Sell defied expectations holding his own in the stand-up with Baroni before choking out Baroni with about 45 seconds left to go in the fight. With the upset victory, Sell has earned himself another shot in the UFC.
-Heavyweight Mike Kyle was able to fight his way back into the winner's circle at UFC 51, improving his UFC record to 2-1. Kyle's contract for his UFC debut was for $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win, and after winning his UFC debut he got a raise in his second UFC fight to the new total of $4,000 to fight and $4,000 more to win. After losing in his second UFC outing, Kyle's pay was rolled back to the previous level of $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win, which is what he fought for at UFC 51.
-Like Mike Kyle, heavyweight Justin Eilers also made $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win, but Eilers received a slightly larger raise due to the potential and star power that he showed in his UFC debut. Eilers' pay for his second UFC fight at UFC 51 was for $5,000 to fight and $5,000 more to win. After losing to Paul Buentello, Eilers is now 1-1 in the UFC.
-Paul Buentello got slightly more than most heavyweights get for their UFC debut, with a UFC 51 bout agreement that paid him $4,000 to fight and $4,000 more to win. With his impressive win over Justin Eilers and the star power that he showed during and after the fight, Buentello could be a big player in the heavyweight division in the future.
-James Irvin got the standard pay for a heavyweight making his debut in the UFC: $3,000 to fight and $3,000 more to win, while Drew Fickett and Gideon Ray got the standard pay for a non-heavyweight making his debut in the UFC: $2,000 to fight and $2,000 more to win.
Unfortunately for these fighters, most of the fighters who lose their first UFC match do not return to the UFC, or at least not until they rack up an impressive winning streak on smaller shows. Like any fighter who loses his UFC debut, the chances of Irvin, Fickett, and Ray making it back to the UFC someday will likely depend on how dedicated they are to improving themselves and continuing to build their resumes on the independent scene.