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The life of a fighter is a constant grueling  battle to climb to the top and stay there. Fighters scratch and claw their way up the local circuits in hopes of some day making that final step in to the big show. In MMA that final step of course is the UFC, and once there staying there is the hardest battle yet. Some are back on the regional circuit quicker than you can duck an overhand right, while others find success inside the octagon, and have managed to call the UFC home for multi-fight contracts, and even the place where they finish they’re career.

Its been the goal of UFC President Dana White to take MMA and the UFC in particular to heights of being the 5th major pro sport in the world, joining the likes of the NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLB. This would be huge for the the sport and its athletes but one key thing still seems to be missing that all the major pro sports have had for years, multi-million dollar contracts.

Those that choose fighting as a career are by far the most talented and dedicated athletes in the world, they put there heart and soul on the line every time they enter a fight and when not engaged in battle they are working to constantly better their skills. Most still work full time jobs while slugging it out on the regional circuits trying to make ends meet. And if they are one of the few lucky ones that get the call from the UFC you would assume that those financial struggles are a thing of the past, but for a lot of guys just breaking through to the big stage its far from the case.

UFC 129 was the biggest event to date in UFC history selling out at over 55,000 in attendance and while the big names came out with what may look like big paydays there were those that made the kind of money that is not what you would expect from a sport trying to become the biggest in the world. Yves Jabouin walked away with a mere $4,000 for his efforts against Pablo Garza who was scheduled to make $4,000 to show and another $4,000 for the win for a grand total of $8,000, but by also picking up the submission of the night bonus Garza walked away with an extra $129,000 for a disclosed total of $137,000.

Now you may see that figure and see no problem, but if not for the fight night bonus Garza would have made a less than stellar $8,000. Yes there are some shaking there heads saying $4,000-$8,000 for 15 minutes or less of work is a pretty solid payday and $137,000 is more than 2 yrs salary for the average blue collar worker. To those still shaking your head yes you have a point but that point only goes so far when other major pro sports athletes are making $10,000,000 per season and more.

No pro athlete is by any means unsuited to be part of their sport, they dedicate the time and effort and most succeed at what they do. However whether its time away from their friends and family for training 3+ times daily or doing all the PR for upcoming fights, or the closely followed diet and nutrition by many looking to get to the top its safe to say that no other pro athlete in the world dedicates themselves to their respective sport the way an MMA fighter does. Yes there are endorsement deals, training seminars and various other means of income that come the way of a fighter that help pay the bills but it still falls well short of the typical pro athlete salary.

If Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter in UFC history then why did Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz walk away with the biggest (disclosed) paydays from last Saturdays UFC 148 event? The numbers just don’t make sense, and part of the blame may fall into the hands of the agents representing these world class athletes. If major endorsement deals and huge multi-year contracts can be negotiated in all other major pro sports than why are the worlds greatest athletes coming up short. Sponsors pay huge dollar amounts and taxes to have their names shown on UFC broadcasts, so why aren’t these fighters reaping the rewards?

Sure a $200,000 pay day is nothing to scoff at but when other sport’s big stars are making 10’s of millions per year and don’t face nearly half the risks of a pro fighter it just doesn’t add up. Its time that the athletes of the fastest growing sport in the world are compensated in ways comparable to their counterparts of the other major pro sports. It doesn’t matter if your playing 80+ games per season, stepping into a cage 3 or 4 times per year. The heart, dedication and drive to be the worlds best is no comparison and its time these amazing athletes reap the rewards.

This ESPN news piece takes a deeper look at fighter pay in the UFC.