Fighter Salaries: Addressing The Problems

July 1, 2008

As a follow-up to Fighter Salaries: The Problems With Revenue Linking, in the coming days I will be examining potential suggestions that could help to improve the hotly contested MMA issue that is fighter pay. For the sake of convenience – and also because they are the “800 lbs. gorilla in the room” – most of this discussion will focus on the UFC. While I certainly do not believe that the UFC and MMA are interchangeable, the sport’s biggest organization is almost always at the forefront of every debate regarding the sport and the industry.

To begin, I would like to be clear from the outset: there exists no possible solution that is going to make everyone happy. Even if the MMA industry were to stumble upon a seemingly perfect payscale, it would only be a matter of time before satisfaction is replaced by rationality and everyone at the table again begins to demand a bigger piece of the pie.

Having said that, what really are the issues here? Although there are many smaller problems that help to make fighter pay so contentious, I have identified three issues that seem to receive the most attention whenever a debate arises:

1. Minimum Fighter Payouts.

2. UFC Contract Provisions.

3. Fighter Salaries: A Fair Share of Revenues.

So, what’s the answer? As I mentioned earlier, there is no one solution that is going to make everyone happy. However, I believe the UFC’s best chance to resolve these issues (or at the very least make them less contentious) is to utilize elements of interest-based negotiation in combination with alternative forms of pay commonly referred to as “compensation” – an HR buzzword that is becoming a staple in Corporate America these days.

It is critical that the UFC get past its own position and the position of the fighters in order to see the interests of both sides – interests are the reasons why people or parties want what they want. In interest-based negotiation this can lead to agreements that were never imagined, simply because neither side was willing to ask one simple question: “why do you want this?”

Getting to the interests of the fighters will open the door to solving them with creative solutions that don’t simply focus on salary. After all, there are other ways to compensate people for their work aside from simply paying them money.

Look for the next edition of Fighter Salaries: Minimum Fighter Payouts tomorrow.

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