John Cholish critical of low UFC fighter pay, says he lost money in previous fights

Esther Lin for MMA Fighting

It’s hard out here for an undercard mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.

Boy, they're sure coming out of the woodwork today.

After suffering his second straight loss under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) banner last weekend (May 18, 2013) against Gleison Tibau at UFC on FX 8, lightweight contender John Cholish decided it was best to hang up his mixed martial arts (MMA) gloves for good.

Prior to the bout, Cholish posted on his Twitter account that he would be stepping away from the fight game win, lose or draw. With a record of 8-3 and only 29 years old and in seemingly good health, many felt the retirement was a bit premature, or perhaps there was something else factoring into his decision.

As it turns out, there was.

Appearing on a recent edition of "The MMA Hour," Cholish revealed that the pay scale UFC has in place made him realize that "financially, it didn't make any sense" to keep fighting and make the sacrifices that are required.

He goes into detail:

"The main reason behind it is just I do kind of have another job that provides for me and it got to the point where I really had to sit back and say, ‘You know, all the sacrifices that I'm making, time away from family, time away from friends, is it really worth what I'm getting in return? For the love of the sport, I was pretty much doing it the whole time, but then it gets to the point where financially, it just doesn't make any sense."

Cholish believes many who are in the same boat he was in are afraid to stand up and speak out against low fighter pay due to potential repercussions:

"To kind of give a brief overview, why I'm here talking to you today is I just think a lot of fighters feel the exact same way I do, but are just in a situation or position where they're, for a lack of a better word, just scared to say anything about it, because they're worried about the repercussions."

John revealed that after his bout against Tibau in Brazil, he asked to take a picture with another fighter on the card (which he refused to name) but was turned down because said fighter and his manager didn't want it to seem like they are associated with someone who was speaking out against fighter pay after seeing a previous post about the issue from Cholish.

An energy trader on Wall Street, Cholish isn't exactly starving for work and he knows a thing or two about numbers; so he doesn't see how fighters who decide to go into MMA full time live of the income they receive from UFC.

"I can say from how I've been treated indirectly and just my understanding of what I think the UFC takes in on an annual basis, they could compensate the lower-level fighters and without going into detail the upper-level fighters a little bit better. I think if you're a fighter on the lower level, you should at least be getting enough income - win or lose in your fight - so that in a three-month period of time or two-month period of time, whatever the fight camp may be, you can go into that fight fully focused on the fight, performing your best as opposed to worrying about, ‘Man, you know, financially how can I prepare? Cut corners? Because someone who fights full time, I just don't see how they can live off the income at this level."

He points out that in his previous fight in Brazil, he actually lost money:

"But just for a basic example. So Danny Castillo I know trains out of California. He had to travel to New Jersey. I live in New York. I had to travel to Brazil. You're fighting in a sport, mixed martial arts, with a wide range of skills and tactics and a lot of people will have multiple coaches. You're allowed three corners for each fight, but you're only in your contract, and for me personally, I only get one coach's flight and one hotel room and cover one visa. I know just from this last fight, I had to pay over $3,000 in flights. I had to pay for an additional hotel room. I had to pay for two additional visas which are $500 a piece. I have to pay for the licensing fees. I have to pay for the medicals. Before you even step to the ring, your original purse is gone. And that's before factoring in the gyms I go to train at, my coaches that take hours of time to sacrifice. I want to pay them and take care of them. If a fighter doesn't do well, how does he reciprocate his coaches who put their hours and time and their training partners? It just seems like certain things could be handled better and the fighter could be treated better for an organization that claims to be the best in the world in mixed martial arts."

Earning $8,000 for his fight against Gleison, Cholish claims when the final numbers are tallied up and he pays his managers and coaches, he will be in the hole around $5000 to $10,000.

Putting forth another example, Cholish revealed that after his UFC 140 bout against Mitch Clarke, he "barely broke even," and that was after he received a discretionary bonus of $5,000 to go along with his $6000 to show and $6,000 to win purse.

Cholish admits he didn't get into the sport of MMA to make money or to become famous, but losing money obviously wasn't in his plans. He simply wanted to test himself in the best MMA organization in world, however, for the rest of the fighters who fight full time, he wants to do his part to shed light on the issue.

"I think now I might be able to add more value being able to speak out and kind of give me opinion. Hopefully it encourages other fighters to speak up and do the same, but in the end, I just want to do what's best for the sport."

According to John, the fans are the ones with the power to sway the ZUFFA higher ups to improve salaries and says given the amount of coin UFC makes annually, they can afford to dish out a bit more to the fighters:

"The fans, I think, are the biggest ones that can influence what the company does. The fans are the ones that bring the revenue to ZUFFA and if that ever decreased, that's something they're going to take notice at. Until then, I think it's going to be hard for an individual fighter to do anything. I'm just hoping I can shed a little bit of light on it."

It's not the first time a fighter has spoken about fighter pay, and even if company president Dana White says the company has made plenty of millionaires, it probably won't be the last.

Anyone care to dissect these comments?

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