Inside the UFC Bonus System

October 31, 2007

The standard Zuffa contract provides that “the Fighter’s purse and Win Bonus, together with the Incidentals (defined below) shall be the sole compensation due to or claimed by Fighter on account of this Agreement, the Rights, and Fighter’s participation in any Bout or any activity related thereto.” However, the existence of an extensive undisclosed bonus system has long been the subject of speculation within the industry. As a result of the recent dispute between Randy Couture and Zuffa, substantial details of the bonus system have begun to emerge.

At his press conference on October 25, Couture produced an unsigned bout agreement which in addition to listing his previously disclosed downside guaranteed ($250,000), also detailed the previously unknown pay-per-view bonus scale. Prior to the disclosure, reports and rumors had suggested that the bonus was between $1-2 per pay-per-view buy, however, the pay-per-view bonus system turned out to be more complicated and lucrative than previously thought.

The scale provided by Couture was an escalator bonus system. Couture was entitled to $1 per buy on buys 100,000 through 175,000, $1.50 on buys 175,000 through 300,000, $2 on buys 300,000 through 330,000, and $3 per buy on buys over 330,000. With most UFC shows now believed to do over 330,000 buys, under the scale fighters would be entitled to $322,500 plus $3 per buy for every buy over 330,000. While not confirmed, it is believed that the scale is not unique to Couture and instead represents the standard arrangement with other top fighters in the company.

Couture also shed light on another much speculated about source of compensation, locker room bonus checks. It has long been speculated that many fighters were the recipient of undisclosed locker room bonuses following strong performances. Couture confirmed that this is a standard practice of the company and that he received a $500,000 bonus following his fight with Tim Sylvia. In its press conference, the UFC referred to these bonuses as “discretionary bonuses” – entirely at the managers discretion, over and above contracted compensation. Sherdog.com recently reported that these lock room bonuses have reached as high as $1 million.

Zuffa’s use of signing bonuses has also come to light during the dispute. Couture pointed to large signing bonuses paid to Matt Hughes and Tim Sylvia as one of the ways that he felt disrespected by the company. The exact figures of these bonuses are unknown, but Hughes’ bonus is believed to be seven figures.

Based on information made available by Couture, roughly 85% of Couture’s total compensation for the Sylvia fight ($1,642,500) was paid in the form of undisclosed bonuses.

One Response to “Inside the UFC Bonus System”

  1. GSP probably makes nearly the same prize money as Roger Federer in one year! - Sherdog Mixed Martial Arts Forums on February 3rd, 2011 11:00 AM

    […] was so long ago, but MMA Payout reported the details which are still available in their archive: Inside the UFC Bonus System : MMAPayout.com: The Business of MMA […]

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