The pay Gap between Boxing and MMA
“In 1980 the average NFL salary was $78,657 and the Tough Guy Champion was slated to take home 100K. With a nearly 14-year jump start on the UFC, it begs to ask the obvious; would such a gap and disparity between boxing and MMA exist today if the sport wasn’t outlawed?” -Bill Viola Sr. Co-creator of the sport of mixed martial arts
The climate has changed since the original release of Godfathers of MMA (2014) but the boxing / MMA dynamic has never been more prevalent. In 2016 the Feritta brother’s cashed out of the MMA game to the tune of an unprecedented $4 billion (that’s with a “B”), passing the torch to WME-IMG. New ownership began cleaning house; trimming the fat by eliminating legacy positions and ousting everyone from commentators to matchmakers; but two things remained constant: 1. Dana White (who inked a 5-year deal) and 2. The haves and haves-not (aka underpaid fighters). As many experts label the gap as exploitation, athletes have been forced to think outside the box.
While UFC 3.0 was busy adjusting operations, their biggest asset was flirting with the “enemy.” Connor McGregor, the UFC’s poster boy, began courting pretty boy Floyd, taunting him to come out of retirement for some “fantasy” fisticuffs. The industry response: “This is a joke!” A year later and the one they call “Notorious” was able to broker the most lucrative fight in HISTORY weighing-in with more twitter jabs than boxing wins. In the image of Ali vs Inoki, Connor scored the ultimate prom date and the two most polarizing figures in combat sports are set to dance August 26th at MGM Grand.
McGregor stands to be the wealthiest “MMA” athlete in history (his cut estimated upwards of $100 million) from a boxing contest? I say “contest” because “it is what it is.” Floyd is one of the best P4P fighters of all-time, and Connor is a 0-0 novice in the professional squared circle. The Irishman (who at one point was collecting welfare checks) earned a paltry $16,000 in his UFC debut (April 2013). Although he currently leads the roster (disclosed pay of $3 million for UFC 202), it pales in comparison to comparable boxers. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Connor is a marketing juggernaut. Win or lose, he wins! If by some miracle he lands the Hail Mary “puncher’s chance,” he’s instantly immortal. If he loses, he was supposed to! Either way he bags the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that “he” hustled—Genius. The entire scenario takes us back to 1979 and the allure of the Tough Guy Contest. McGregor vs Mayweather isn’t about boxing per se, it’s a “what if” contest. Boxing fans are salivating to see Connor get his ass kicked, while some MMA junkies still believe in Lucky Charms. Connor is an “average Joe” in the world of pugilism and yet the age old question still has a billion dollar answer.
I’d be remiss not give CV Productions a preverbal pat on the back; they created a business model with market share in line with other professional franchises at the time. In 1980 the average NFL salary was $78,657 and the Tough Guy Champion was slated to take home 100K. With a nearly 14-year jump start on the UFC, it begs to ask the obvious; would such a gap and disparity between boxing and MMA exist today if the sport wasn’t outlawed? Chalk it up to another reoccurring, “what if?”
Len Pettigrew, the first NFL Pro-athlete to compete in MMA:
Pro-Athletes entered the world of mixed martial arts long before the inaugural UFC in 1993. Meet Len Pettigrew, the first pro-sports athlete to cross-over and compete in MMA.
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