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Midnight Mania! Undefeated prospect Cole Smith on first UFC check: ‘This sport sucks’

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Ottawa-Gagnon vs Smith Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

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Undefeated prospect Cole Smith finally made his UFC debut this past weekend, defeating Mitch Gagnon by unanimous decision to extend his record to 6-0. However, despite the first win on the big stage, Smith was unimpressed with his paycheck. Via

This sport sucks, man,” Smith said shortly after his win. “Cutting weight, doing a bunch of shit I don’t want to do, so I want to get paid accordingly. It’s one thing you’re fighting for peanuts your whole life. I’ve mooched rides, I’ve mooched food, my brothers have to give me clothes. It’s about time. I want to be paid.

It’s bullshit that someone in the NBA who doesn’t even touch the court is getting 600 grand, while I’m out here fighting my ass off, and I’m getting 10.

Smith is correct that pay for mixed martial artists is generally very bad. With neither collective representation nor a competitive market for fighters given the UFC’s massive market power, fighters are stuck with the worst of both worlds, and basically no bargaining power. Probably the most stark illustration of that lack of power is that the UFC was able to unilaterally take away hundreds of individual fighter sponsorships with the Reebok deal, collapsing the market for MMA sponsors. Now it uses the money from Reebok as another cudgel to keep fighters in line- Reebok pay is now termed ‘Promotional Guidelines Compliance Pay’.

Yet, Smith is one of the lucky ones, in the sense that he actually made it to the UFC and presumably has a future in the organization. Very few fighters outside the UFC make what could be considered a living wage. Regional fighters usually have to cultivate second jobs or careers to get by. There is no glamour to the life of a young professional MMA fighter.

Even in the UFC, which earns millions of dollars per event through television deals, the best estimates place fighter pay at less than 17% of gross revenue. By Cole Smith’s comparison, NBA athletes, with the benefit of both collective representation from a union and competition between teams, get around 50% of the NBA’s gross revenue. All efforts to organize UFC fighters so far, the most notable being Project Spearhead, have been unsuccessful. Even if UFC athletes were to be miraculously recognized as employees and then somehow able to form a union, it would be an exceptionally weak union, because fighter careers are, on average, very short, giving them little leverage. Unlike team sports, where winning generates revenue, there is also no real incentive for skill; this means most of the UFC’s ‘workforce’ is extremely replaceable.

Nonetheless, athletes like Cole Smith continue to chase their dream. He was quick to emphasize that he is happy to be here. In spite of the low pay, his interactions with UFC personnel has been great.

I just mean it’s a really really tough sport. That’s all I’m saying,” he said. “My first experience here has been absolutely amazing. They’ve treated me great.

Sometimes it’s not about the pay, it’s about the perks. And the dream.


On fighter pay:

Justin Gaethje’s second match with Jordan Burroughs was closer than Ben Askren’s.

It’s true.

Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa better not be one of those cursed too-good-to-be-true fights.

Jordan Burroughs blasting Ben Askren off his feet was very satisfying to watch, even though it was expected.


Slips, Rips, KO Clips

Anyone else extremely hyped for Alex Volkanovski vs. Jose Aldo?

Always worth reposting this one

Max Holloway has a protege, it seems

Random Land

So wholesome

Sleep well, Maniacs! A better tomorrow is always possible. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook @Vorpality

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