Cholish and Volkmann speak out about UFC fighter pay, insurance

May 24, 2013

After retiring Saturday, John Cholish has become a controversial figure as he’s spoken out for fighter wages.  Jacob Volkmann has joined Cholish in voicing his opinion about the UFC in speaking out about UFC insurance.

Cholish stated in an interview on The MMA Hour that he lost money in his last fight and would like to see something done so that fighters get a fair wage.  According to an interview on Bleacher Report, Cholish stated that he paid for two of his coaches to travel to Brazil with him as well as for their food bill while they were there.  His contract only allowed travel for one coach.

Also, he stated that his insurance covered his “pre-fight medicals.” Its interesting that the UFC insurance does not cover this.  Cholish indicated that his own insurance at his day job at a commodities firm on Wall Street picked these up.  Jacob Volkmann, a former UFC fighter, stated that the insurance with the UFC includes a $1,500 deductible.  (Bloody Elbow via Above and Beyond MMA)

One thing not addressed by Cholish is how much he gets from sponsors.  Cholish was sponsored by Alienware and MusclePharm on Saturday night among others.  This compensation could assist some of the expenses discussed by Cholish.

When asked about Cholish and Volkmann’s comments, White called them “washouts.”  Cholish has since responded to White’s criticism.


Although he initially indicated he had not been paid as of Monday, he has since received his payment from Zuffa and promptly donated to the relief efforts in Oklahoma.


A very good move for Cholish from a PR perspective.

Payout Perspective:

The first takeaway is that Cholish only received slightly over $2K for his fight last Saturday.  This is sobering considering he was scheduled to make $8,000 to show.

Cholish’s breakdown of costs is an interesting look at what a fighter must go through to prepare for a fight.  Obviously, the one variable left out (which was noted by Bleacher Report), is the compensation from sponsors.  This could be just a lump sum payment, a payment after the fight or a monthly stipend depending on the relationship between fighter and sponsor.  This could offset some of the pre-fight expenses.  Moreover, there could be some sort of deal if the gym the fighter trains at is the same place he has his coaches (which seems to be the standard).  Cholish also points out the taxes and licensing fees he had to pay for his Brazil fight.

It is hard to blame Cholish for choosing to pay for two additional coaches to go to Brazil with him.  If he believed that he needed the coaches to win, it was necessary.  The fact that he paid out of pocket for their expenses shows the kind of person he is.  Notably, even in Eddie Alvarez’s proposed contract he’s only allowed travel expenses for one coach unless the fight is a Championship fight.

Volkmann also chimed in about the hefty deductible if you make a claim on the UFC insurance.  While insurance is definitely a plus, the deductible is an out of pocket expense that must be paid by the insured.  Its another side of the insurance coverage that has not been discussed by anyone.

Volkmann’s issues are different than Cholish and it might not be fair to lump them into the same boat.  Volkmann has been consistent about speaking out about issues with taxes stemming back from his criticism of President Obama, which got him some notoriety.  The insurance issue is interesting to note and may be something to be on the lookout for in the future.

Its interesting to see the different responses to Cholish’s remarks.  While some applaud him for speaking up about fighter pay, others see him as a malcontent.  The fact is that Cholish has a career, makes enough money at his day job and is therefore not concerned about what his comments may have on him with Zuffa.  This allows him the freedom to express himself without concern about retribution.  He’s also is willing to discuss the issue with White, something I’d be surprised White would do.  From a PR standpoint, Zuffa should at least take the meeting to show its willing to listen.  When people love Chael Sonnen for speaking his mind, remember that Cholish is doing the same.  Cholish is telling it like it is (from his standpoint) and it seems like he’s doing this for the greater good of the sport and not just to get some publicity.

18 Responses to “Cholish and Volkmann speak out about UFC fighter pay, insurance”

  1. Diego on May 24th, 2013 11:35 AM

    I think his views are shared by most fighters, unfortunately they don’t all have degrees from Cornell and a job on Wall Street to fall back on so they can’t speak their minds. Even Cholish didn’t say anything until after his retirement.

    It’s nearly impossible to be a full-time fighter (meaning you make enough money to not need a second job) when you’re at the bottom rungs of the UFC – which Cholish never managed to climb above. That’s true of boxing as well and I don’t know that it will change anytime soon. The fight game is a tough way to make a living, and for every Mayweather or GSP there are thousands of guys who finish their careers broken and broke.

  2. Jose Mendoza on May 24th, 2013 11:41 AM

    well said Diego.

  3. michael on May 24th, 2013 12:10 PM

    If a ‘deductible” is what I think it is (= per year you pay the first 1500$ yourself, then the rest, wheter it’s an additional 50$ oder 50.000$ is covered by the insurance, which I suppose the UFC pays the monthly fee for you?!??!); then I see Volkman’s complaints as not very bright.
    I think that Dana adresses some of these points in a rather reasonable way in his Ufc 160 pre fight media scrum.

  4. michael on May 24th, 2013 12:10 PM

    hang on, either scrum or a separete interview…

  5. Diego on May 24th, 2013 12:17 PM


    The way Volkmann states it, it sounds like it might be $1500 per visit (he says “per injury”). I can’t imagine that’s the case, but then in the American healthcare system anything is possible.

  6. Matt C. on May 24th, 2013 12:57 PM

    I understand his point on what he feels is wrong but as the MMA industry goes the UFC is offering the best options on all those things. I mean if a fighter wasn’t happy with those terms and conditions and wanted to go elsewhere to get better it probably isn’t going to happen. So the argument is flawed to me.

  7. michael on May 24th, 2013 1:18 PM


    thanks, – that’s an interesting point I didn’t notice and it would make a difference. It would also be really interesting to learn more about that.
    (still though regarding Volkman; I bet if a fighter separates his shoulder, needs operation, stationary visit in a hospital and several MRI’s etc. then having to pay “only” 1500 is still better than having to pay for everything out of his own pocket).

    …Somehow I find the insurance-topic interesting now,
    do you know if for example dental-repairs are included? (like caries and that stuff, I could understand if it covered a tooth that broke during training/fighting etc.)
    could the health-insurance also cover buying Medicinal Marihuana if prescribed by a doctor? (that would be hilariously counterproductive!)
    is it long-term? Say in a bad case (I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen) a fight leaves one guy partly disabled, – would the insurance cover his costs only as long as his contract lasts or forever?

    Is there any more info on that topic? Thanks!

  8. Sampson Simpson on May 24th, 2013 5:41 PM

    White collar fighters are the worst

  9. BrainSmasher on May 24th, 2013 6:53 PM

    This is crazy. A deductible is you pay the first 1500 of medical expenses that year. Not per visit. That’s how most deductibles work. Also 1500 is a small price to pay for fighters who do make good money if last more than 3 fights and higher on the MMA food chain than the Janitor unlike Cholish. IF that is what it takes to make fighter insurance possible then it is a small price to pay. Lets remember that there has already been many fighters come out in support of the insurance because their med bills were over 50,000.

    Also why is this guy being taken serious? He says he lost money and says it was because he took his entire gym to stand in his corner and watch him fight. You do not need 3 guys and that’s why the UFC pays for 1 person. If a fighter wants to bring his Mc Hammer entourage with him then he SHOULD have to pay for it. Apparently having 3 people in his corner on vacation didn’t work out so well as he lost. Only the top fighters with the most leverage get more than 1 paid cornerman. Couture had to negotiate extra plane tickets and hotel room into his contract.

    Lets remember that the guy he fought also only was allowed 1 paid corner man. So it isn’t like he was at a disadvantage. You cant fly 3+ people to everyone place on earth for each fighter when there is almost 25 fighters per card. They would be paying over 100 round trip flights to Brazil plus hotel and food for those 100 people. What is the purpose? For a main event fighter, yeah. They have a lot of responsibilities with media and what knot. But the rest of the fighters corner men do very little. They simply don’t need more than 1. If Nate Diaz wants to have all of Stocton in his corner. Should the UFC have to fly everyone out and put them up and feed them?

    This is the problem with society. Fighters cry wanting insurance and not that isn’t even good enough. The UFC used to not pay for corner men at all. Not they pay for 1 and that isn’t enough. They give this bum an opportunity of a life time and that wasn’t good enough for him either. This guy just wants attention. He retired 3 fights into his UFC career before he was released to get attention. And he is only speaking out to get attention. There is no reason for the UFC to just waste money and run needless expeses up that can later come back and kill the sport if there is a rough period. Just like Pride. their expenses were to high to survive until they found a tv deal.

    Lets think about this. If the UFC was going to spend that much more on a fighter. 2 extra round trip tickets to brazil, extra hotel room and food. Wouldn’t the fighter more often than not rather have that cash? I bet we are talking easily $5,000. I bet 99% of the fighters don’t want that going to cornermen expense when they do not need it just because this ass clown has money to burn.

  10. Tops of on May 25th, 2013 2:49 AM

    B.S said”The UFC has 400 fighters who are making a good living and we know pretty much all their names and see all their fights. ”

    Does Volkmam and Cholish part of this 400?
    Just asking.

  11. turd on May 25th, 2013 5:58 AM

    fighting is a brutal sport money wise, and very hard to make money

    i remember reading marvin hagler said sometimes he fought for free, or only 25 bucks.

    fighting is a sport if you are not at the top you do not make good money.

    were you could be a mediocre nba or baseball player and be a millionaire.

  12. BrainSmasher on May 25th, 2013 11:02 AM

    They are not in the UFC stupid. But yes they were at one time. Volkman was paid much better. But Cholish still made good money. He made between 30-40K and cod have made 60-70K plus bonus money of he was any good. That’s per year. The problem with this guy is he wasted his money.

  13. Tops of on May 26th, 2013 5:42 AM

    Very good reply.”but yes they were at one time”…Volkmam fought last feb? And cholish 1 week ago… you made it sound like ages ago…
    In response to b.s. hype machine I got cholish record
    Turns out he fights once a year in 2012 2013 ala dela Hoya and mayweather lol…

    Loss 8-3 Gleison Tibau UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Rockhold May 18, 2013
    $8000 plus $ 8t if he wins….but he didn’t

    Loss 8-2 Danny Castillo Decision UFC on Fox: Diaz vs. Miller May 5, 2012

    Win 8-1 Mitch Clarke TKO UFC 140 December 10, 2011 2 4
    John Cholish: $8,000 ($4,000 to show, $4,000 win bonus)

    So where did you get the 30 to 40k per year figures?hahaha…..

    Wait b.s. is your name Dana?

  14. BrainSmasher on May 26th, 2013 11:35 AM

    I was factoring sponsorships and being conservative. Also it doesn’t matter when his fights was. He fought 3 times and a fighter can easily get this in in a year if they choose.

  15. BrainSmasher on May 26th, 2013 11:37 AM

    Also I highly doubt his pay changed during his 3 fights. So where you pulled that 4/4 out of you ass. I will never know.

  16. Jeremy Lynch on May 26th, 2013 1:25 PM

    I would take anything Volkman says with a grain of salt, he is a liar. If you look at what he says he made in 2012 and 2011, then check with public records, you will see he actually made 40k more than he says he did. For 2011, he said he made 54k, records show 84k. 2012 he said he made 50k, records show 60k.

    While I do agree the base for a starting fighter should be higher, you have to actually win to make a living in MMA. Cholish went 1-2 and he had to know that even if he had not retired, he was likely going to get cut.

  17. Diego on May 28th, 2013 11:46 AM

    “They give this bum an opportunity of a life time and that wasn’t good enough for him either.”

    I bet hard cash you wouldn’t call him a bum to his face. But you’ve got trombone sized-stones like John Holmes on the interweb (to quote the most quotable fighter in the history of MMA).

    Cholish is making a good point that it’s nearly impossible to make a living in MMA at the lower rungs. That’s important to note because every fighter starts out at the lower rungs, and if fighters can’t make a living, then they can’t commit full time to the sport and the quality of the sport suffers.

    I don’t know what the solution is because a little more money per fight wouldn’t get those fighters over the hump. If you include having to sit out due to injuries, fighters may not average more than one or two fights in a 12 month period, and it’s going to be hard to make enough to cover all your costs, plus you never actually know when your next payday will be so you’ll probably not be inclined to quit your day job.

    “He retired 3 fights into his UFC career before he was released to get attention. And he is only speaking out to get attention”

    Really? You know his motivation? The guy is a broker on Wall Street. He doesn’t need the attention. He’s not launching a reality show or a career in the public eye. I don’t know for sure why he’s mentioning it, but I’m guessing that he’s just frustrated by what he sees as the business of MMA.

    “For a main event fighter, yeah. They have a lot of responsibilities with media and what knot. But the rest of the fighters corner men do very little.”

    You know nothing of fighting if you think corner men do very little, and if you think that only fighters with media responsibilities need them. I don’t know what the optimal # of corner men is, but I’ve never seen less that 2 in a corner, and usually it’s 3 (though one is often the cut man and I’m not sure if the fighter pays for that or it the UFC provides it). I’m guessing those guys are there for a reason.

    I’ve never been in a professional fight, so I don’t know for sure, but I find it odd that close to 100% of the fighters in MMA, boxing and kickboxing have three guys minimum in their corner if one is all that is needed.

    “There is no reason for the UFC to just waste money and run needless expeses up that can later come back and kill the sport if there is a rough period. ”

    There is never a reason to run up needless expenses – that’s why they are needless – however, I don’t believe fighter pay to be needless, especially at the lower rungs where you can encourage fighters to commit to full time training. Obviously guys higher up the ladder will commit full time since they are unlikely to make hundreds of thousands of dollars doing anything else, but if your pay is 4/4 or 8/8 or even 16/16, and you aren’t sure how many fights you will be able to fit in that year, it can be tempting to do something on the side.

  18. Jeremy Lynch on May 30th, 2013 8:32 AM


    It is hard at the lowest rung. You win a couple fights and get to maybe 14+14, you would make 70k by going 2-1. And Cholish opts not to make any mention of sponsorships. Looking at some comments over the years, most prelim guys get at least 5k in sponsors.

    Regarding cut men: UFC handles that. Stitch addressed that recently.

    To me, 10+10 is a solid starting pay. Most guys currently start at 8+8. Pay can go down with loses (as in the case of Cholish), but 8+8 was the lowest for UFC 160 (2 guys were at 8+8). Looking at that card, only 2 guys made less than 10k and only 4 made less than 15k

    Bottom line is that no unknown fighter is going to make a living solely on their first UFC contract. You get to the second and things get better.

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