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Jared Cannonier: UFC fighters need ‘to get paid’ like ‘elite-level’ athletes

“Killa Gorilla” is coming off a main event victory at UFC Vegas 34, but he doesn’t have much to show for it.

Jared Cannonier is among the highest-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights, and he wants to see fighter pay align closer to that of other elite athletes.

Cannonier (No. 3) expressed his financial difficulties in the aftermath of a unanimous decision win against Kelvin Gastelum (see it again here) at UFC Vegas 34, which took place inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Aug. 20, 2021.

In a follow-up interview, “The Killa Gorilla” expanded on his situation.

“It’s not dire, it’s just a natural occurrence if you will,” Cannonier told The MMA Hours Ariel Helwani about his financial situation (h/t MMA Fighting). “Of course coming off the injury, I’m not balling out of control or anything like that, and a lot of people don’t understand that when we have these fights that we owe people money after these fights. After this win, 60 percent of my money is already gone. Between the gym, between management, between taxes, on top of that I’ve got bills, credit cards, I got kids, I’ve got a house up in Alaska, I’ve got a house here, I’ve got car payments. That money goes. Money don’t last forever.

“Right now fighting is our only revenue,” he continued. “I don’t have sponsors or anything like that. Fighting is my only focus. I’m not out here doing commercials or anything like that. Nobody’s asking me to be in the next Marvel movie. Not being able to fight for the last 10 months put a strain on our pockets. So I’m glad to have gotten back in there. I’m glad that I get two checks plus that main event bonus. I’m glad I’m not injured so I can do it again.”

Cannonier expressed his appreciation for the UFC paycheck, but said the money doesn’t stretch far enough.

“I’m not here to say the UFC isn’t paying me,” Cannonier said. “Because I’m getting paid pretty good from the UFC. It’s just that money don’t last forever. I’m not out here balling out of control, I’m not splurging or anything like that. I’m not stupid, I don’t spend my money on dumb stuff but it’s just life I guess. I would like to get paid.

“I am an elite-level athlete,” he continued. “I would like to get paid like an elite-level athlete. Like the one’s in the NFL and NBA and the one’s playing baseball and soccer and doing all that stuff. They get sponsors but they don’t need sponsors. All they need is that check through the organization. That’s what we need here in the UFC. That’s what we would all like.”

Cannonier’s insufficient payment also puts strain on his wife and family.

“I should have six figures in my account that I don’t even need to touch,” Cannonier said. “I shouldn’t have to worry about, ‘if I get injured and I can’t fight anymore, what the hell am I going to do?’ Unfortunately, that is a situation that a lot of us fighters are in — that I’m in myself.

“My wife is getting ready to get up and go to work, which is against the structure that we have as a family,” he added. “There’s so much here at the house, maintaining the home, taking care of the kids, making sure everything is where it needs to be so I can go and do my thing, not have to worry about everything else that’s going on.”

Aside from his financial struggles, Cannonier is thrilled with the UFC experience.

“I’m not complaining. It’s the UFC pay structure, we sign our contracts,” Cannonier explained. “But yes, I do want a bigger check. I don’t want be like these guys we see in the NFL, I’m not one of these guys to be out stunting on people and flossing and splurging like that. There’s bigger and better things I could be doing with my money.

“I’ve never been happier,” he concluded. “This is the best job I’ve ever had in my life. I think the UFC takes very good care of its athletes. They make sure we have everything we need, especially during fight week. It’s the premier organization for mixed martial arts in the world. I’m part of history in that regard. I’m grateful and I’m blessed to be part of this organization. Yes, I do want more money. I would like one fight to be able to hold me up for at least two years, not one. Then off of that, we build off that.”

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