15 for 15: No. 8 MMA Free Agency

December 26, 2015

Free agency in MMA has been a relative unknown for fighters but with the Reebok sponsorship deal plus other organizations willing to pay them more than the UFC’s seemingly lockstep rate, fighters are thinking about testing the waters.

Benson Henderson and Aljamain Sterling are the first fighters to take their careers in their own hands by looking at options outside of the UFC rather than re-sign with the company before their last fight.

Henderson made the announcement in a subtle post-fight interview this past November and Sterling was informed that the company would waive its “matching” clause after his last fight at UFC Fight Night 80.

Aside from these recent moves, the UFC has allowed other fighters to let their contracts expire without actively pursuing them.  Josh Koscheck and Phil Davis jumped to Bellator after their fight contracts with the UFC ended.

The UFC is not letting everyone go.  It has signed fighters to long-term deals this years.  Paige VanZant, Chad Mendes,  Daniel Cormier and Fabrico Werdum all come to mind as contracted fighters signing deals.  Mendes, Cormier and Werdum signed 8 fight deals.  Nothing confirmed as to the length of VanZant’s new fight deal.  At UFC Fight Night 80 she earned $40,000.  Prior to that, she was making $12K/$12K at UFC 191.

The Reebok deal which assigns a payment structure based on the number of fights with the organization has eliminated the sponsorship market for fighters.  The belief is that without sponsors, it has eliminated a lucrative revenue stream for fighters.  While the Reebok deal will allow for gear and guaranteed payments, the word is that the Reebok payouts are low compared to the possibility of how much money fighters could earn by attaining sponsors for fights.

The UFC has been the major organization in MMA and most every professional fighter wants to fight for the company.  But now, some fighters are considering other options in looking for the best payday.

Bellator has done well with packaging older, UFC fighters and making them stars for their tentpole events.  Notably, Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice have all headlined Bellator events.

We shall see if Henderson and/or Sterling make waves by signing with another organization.  It will be interesting to see if 2016 will be a year that other UFC contracted fighters decide to take a leap of faith and sign on with another organization.

One Response to “15 for 15: No. 8 MMA Free Agency”

  1. Sas on January 3rd, 2016 1:43 AM

    Doubtful. Bellator only wants washed-up UFC fighters for freak show fights. Viacom is done competing with UFC who will pull $600 million this year. Bellator loses money for Viacom without PPV. WSOF is on death’s door. Why would any decent fight tie themselves to anything other than UFC at this point?

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