The life of a fighter is not easy. You train all year long, put your body at risk, and have all of your hard work culminate in front of thousands of fans demanding greatness.
In some cases, a fighter may not even obtain financial stability from such an existence. Getting punched in the face for a living just might not be enough.
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s strawweight title challenger Jessica Andrade has fallen into this reality. Despite being one of the very best female fighters on the UFC roster today, the 26-year-old Brazilian has found it difficult to pay her way outside of the Octagon.
Andrade had the opportunity to explain her financial struggles during a recent media day in Brazil (h/t MMA Fighting) leading up to her main card clash with Karolina Kowalkiewicz next weekend at UFC 228 in Dallas, Texas.
”I’m going to my 14th fight in the UFC and it’s really difficult to get sponsors, to get people who want to help you financially,” Andrade said during . “Sometimes we have to sell UFC clothes, backpack, gloves, stuff like that, to make some extra money to finish a camp. It’s quite difficult, but we go on.”
”I think it would be great if we had a bigger incentive from the government and the city in sports,” she continued. “Not only in fighting, but it lacks a lot for all sports. It would be great if we had this support from people, from businessman, to say ‘we will help.’ Even if it’s only with 500 reais ($120), because 500 reais makes a huge difference by the end of the month [laughs].”
Luckily, Andrade is content with what she makes through UFC. It’s a breath of fresh air considering most fighters these days aren’t satisfied with their promotional pay.
”I have nothing to complain with the UFC because I get paid really well in the UFC,” Andrade said. “I think you’re paid according to your work, and I think that’s really cool. That’s why I want to be fighting all the time, to show that I’m the best, that I’m evolving, because the more you show, the more you get paid.”
With limited sponsorship options at her fingertips, as well as a current UFC contract she’s happy with, Andrade must find different ways to sustain herself financially. The talented Brazilian fighter seems to have a plan in mind she just has to gain a little more knowledge and execute on it (sort of like what she does inside of the cage).
”It’s difficult, but we get by the way we can, right?” Andrade said. “I usually am a strong person and I don’t show anything to others even if I’m going through some difficulties, not even for my master (Gilliard Parana). I get by, Fernanda and I, my mother-in-law. Sometimes we bake a cake and sell, we get by the way we can. It’s sad that we have to sell our training gear, things we get in fights that are a good memory of what we had there, but we’ll get new stuff later [laughs]. I have so many of these white hoodies with my name on that no problem selling one, right? [laughs].”
”We have to go through difficulties to grow,” she continued. “Even though the UFC is millionaire, trillionaire, we have to live our reality. Unfortunately, the UFC makes all that, we don’t. But I’m happy with my job, happy with my salary. I never imagined I would be making as much as I make. My master usually says in training, ‘Jessica made a million reais ($241,765) last year. I look at him and say ‘you liar, I didn’t make that much, it was a bit less’ [laughs], but it’s about knowing how to invest. When I learn to invest in something that brings a result, everything will be alright and I won’t go through many difficulties.”
If Andrade is able to get past Kowalkiewicz next weekend at UFC 228, which will be headlined by a welterweight title fight between UFC champion Tyron Woodley and undefeated contender Darren Till, she’ll be one step closer to a title shot opposite current UFC women’s strawweight queen Rose Namajunas.
If such a fight becomes a reality, Andrade will have the opportunity to claim UFC gold and create a more lucrative future for her and her family.