Parsing Rousey's payday: She has the biggest salary in the UFC, but still gets paid less to "show and win" than the male fighters do.
On Saturday night, UFC women’s champion Ronda Rousey knocked out Brazilian opponent Bethe Correia in 34 seconds. Her last three matches combined have lasted 64 seconds total. If time is money, how much was the half-minute fight worth to Rousey?
It’s difficult to ascertain, as the UFC does not disclose fighters’ earnings. We can, however, make an educated guess, based on Rousey’s past earnings and industry experts’ estimates.
What we know for certain is that Rousey received a “Performance of the night” bonus of $50,000, which was announced by UFC president Dana White in a post-match news conference. It’s safe to say that Rousey earned at least $120,000 for the fight itself. That’s how much she made in her July fight against Alexis Davis, according to MMA Junkie, a USA Today-owned news website covering mixed martial arts (MMA). Rousey’s payment for the Davis fight is a matter of public record because the UFC must report post-match payouts to the state where the match is held. Because Saturday’s match took place in Brazil, there’s no public record of how much the fighters took home, according to UFC communications manager Brian Smith.
However, only the money paid to fighters for showing up and for winning is disclosed to the public, so the $120,000 figure is misleading, according to UFC spokesperson Dave Sholler. In addition to that “show and win” money, most fighters draw additional compensation from the UFC, says Sholler. And in Rousey’s case, that paycheck far exceeds the publicly reported figure.
“Rousey is currently making more in UFC compensation than any other current champion. She is the leader in the club house,” Scholler said. However, the UFC will not disclose any further information on Rousey’s contract. “It’s largely because we’re a private company, but also because many of our athletes don’t want their salaries disclosed,” said Sholler.
Pay-Per-View (PPV) Buys
Like other top UFC fighters, Rousey she gets an (undisclosed) percentage of the revenue earned from viewers, who pay to watch televised UFC matches (Saturday’s match cost viewers $49.99). In an interview with Fox Sports, White mentioned that he expected more people to watch the Rousey v. Correia fight than the July 11 match between male fighters Chad Mendes and Conor McGregor, which garnered 950,000 pay-per-view buys, according to industry site Tapology. For comparison, a weak UFC PPV show will get 50,000 views, and a normal show will have between 200,000 and 500,000 views, according to the SB Nation affiliate MMAFighting.com.
So how do PPV buys translate into earnings for the fighter? While the UFC does not disclose these kinds of statistics either, we can get a sense from earlier estimates by sports experts. For example, back in February, LA Times sports reporter Lance Pugmire estimated that Rousey earned about $1 million for her fight against Cat Zingano. Since she earned only $130,000 from the match itself, she made about $870,000 from 590,000 PPV buys, according to SB Nation’s MMA blog Bloody Elbow.
If White’s estimate is correct and Saturday’s fight drew a million or so PPV buys, it’s fair to assume that Rousey made at least $1 million to $2 million in pay-per-view revenue alone. In an interview with entertainment show The Insider, Yahoo MMA writer Kevin Iole pegged her total take from the match at as high as $5 million. Given the viewership estimates for the fight, Iole’s numbers make sense: the more people watch, the larger the percentage of PPV revenues the fighters take home, said Sholler.
That means Rousey may now make as much per fight as male UFC champs like George St. Pierre, who told Agence France-Presse that he makes between $4 million and $5 million per bout.
PPV revenue may have put Rousey on equal footing with the boys, while her $3 million a year in sponsorships, in addition to what she makes in acting appearances in Furious Seven and Entourage, has undoubtedly helped her leapfrog over most of them. However, Rousey is still making less in show and win earnings from the UFC.
As an example, the same night that Rousey won against Davis—earning $120,000—male UFC fighter Chris Weidman earned $450,000 for his win (and his opponent Lyoto Machida earned $200,000 for his loss). For comparison: Rousey is the undisputed female champion, having defended her title 6 times. Chris Weidan is also undefeated, though he has defended is title 3 times; Lyoto Machida is a one-time champion.
Overall, Rousey is clearly taking home a payday fit for a champ. That said, it’s curious that she still gets paid less than the male fighters when it comes to her actual job: to show up and win. If her 34 seconds in the ring on Saturday are any indication, she seems to be doing that job pretty well.
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