New Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira, is something of a “Cinderella Man” story for Brazilians. Coming straight out of the favelas, Oliveira struggled for more than one decade to establish himself as a top contender in UFC and eventually climb to a position where he could challenge and win his 155-pound title (watch highlights).
But, despite having 28 fights with the promotion, the most finishes in UFC history (17), and the second most “performance” bonuses (16), Oliveira says he is not a rich man. He hopes to be now that he’s holding the title and gets a piece of the pay-per-view (PPV) revenue, but in an interview with Brazilian outlet Combate, he lays out how much gets skimmed off the top of everything before ending up in his pocket.
“I have to pay for training, supplementation, it’s complicated,” Oliveira said. “People think I’m rich, but I’m not. I’m still going to become rich, I’m going to make money with a percentage of pay-per-view, I’ve reached a level where I start to make serious money. Things will start to improve, more than they already are.
“Do you know how much gets deducted?” he continued. “The team alone gets 30 percent, then you need to discount another 12 or 15 percent depending on which U.S. state you fought in. You have other deductions for I don’t know what or to where. When you see it at the end you got less than guys who didn’t do anything. I didn’t earn $50,000 bonuses 17 times. I actually earned $15,000, $12,000, $10,000.
“Is Charles today rich? No I have a good life,” he concluded. “I have a better life than I had. Do I have a nice car? yes, but I also have to pay it in expensive installments. Do I have a motorcycle? I do, but I need to pay another set of installments. What I always wanted for my life was to try to be able to buy all the best things as much as possible, because you never know what tomorrow may bring and to accomplish my dreams. I pay for things slowly. If I stay six or seven months without fighting, then things start to get tight. I read the other day an articles saying I got paid nine hundred thousand dollars or something. I said if it happened I am being robbed, because it didn’t get to me!”
The last paycheck UFC was forced to disclose to an athletic commission for Oliveira showed him making $180,000 (including a $90,000 win bonus) to beat Jim Miller in Dec. 2018. So the three wins and two performance bonuses put him at $640,000 in earnings for 2019 even if his pay didn’t increase.
That’s not a bad amount, until you consider all those deductions Oliveira was talking about. And the reality that all combat sports athletes are racing against the clock to make enough money in a short career to survive off of for the rest of their lives.
What do you think of UFC’s pay scale for fighters like Oliveira?