GSP is rich; Dana White is wealthy
PARENTAL ADVISORY...EXPLICIT LANGUAGE ON THE CHRIS ROCK CLIP
Fighter payouts from UFC 129 are now public, and it doesn't take a Bill James-style statistical guru to figure out for all the physical and mental strain that go with preparing for these bouts, the payoff is paltry.
Naturally Georges St-Pierre tops the pay scale, banking $400,000 for his decision win over Jake Shields, while Lyoto Machida grossed $329,000 for his flying front kick knockout of Randy Couture, who himself earned $250,000.
Those three men consumed more than 53 percent of the UFC's total payroll, with less than $1 million spread between 21 other fighters.
St-Pierre might be the closest thing the UFC has to Manny Pacquiao -- a dominant fighter inside the ring and an endearing character outside of it, someone whose fame crosses borders and who demonstrates that the American sports mainstream can indeed embrace foreign stars.
But at the bank, Rush can't touch the Pac Man.
St-Pierre's $200,000 guarantee is roughly one percent of what Pacqiao is promised for his showdown this Saturday with Shane Mosely, and UFC 129's entire payroll ($1.84 million) translates into about a round of work for boxing's pound-for-pound champ.
That's not an accident.
It's how the UFC is built -- top down, president Dana White as the face of the organization while the fighters are interchangeable pieces, even when they're famous. Some -- like St-Pierre and Anderson Silva -- gain fame, but none gains true independence.
Which is smart business, because it significantly limits the UFC's financial exposure and, most importantly, competition.
Guarantee headliners sums that rival Vernon Wells' salary and you risk losing money if for some reason the pay-per-view doesn't sell. A guarantee is a guarantee, after all.
Beyond that, if the UFC starts paying its stars Pacquiao money it risks blurring the boundary between the wealthy and the merely rich. It's important distinction, pointed out brilliantly by comedian Chris Rock, because when that border shifts so does the balance of power.
St-Pierre's not poor.
His $400,000 paycheques are bigger than he would earn fighting for any other promoter. He won't make that kind of cash fighting on the Score, and he wouldn't bank like that with Strikeforce, the former competitor the UFC bought earlier this year.
But while his purses are big enough to keep St-Pierre at home they're still small enough to keep him from getting ideas.
You guys ever wonder why Oscar De La Hoya is always smiling?
It's because 10 years ago he figured out that the best way to make big, sustainable, money in boxing is to get paid when other people fight. So in 2001 he founded Golden Boy Promotions.
Because the boxers can get rich, but promoters are wealthy.
And you know how he made the leap between the two?
By being the sport's cash cow for a decade and a half, stacking eight-figure paydays until he could afford to go into business for himself. Before Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather surpassed him no boxer cashed bigger cheques than the Golden Boy, who had earned more than $150 million in the ring even before grossing $43 million more against Mayweather in 2007.
By then, of course, he was six years into his career as fighter-promoter, the dual role ensuring that no matter the outcome the Golden Boy would always win at the bank. And after years of depending on people like Bob Arum and Don King, De La Hoya competes with them.
For the pay-per-view airtime that sustains the sport.
Like De La Hoya decade ago, St-Pierre is the biggest name in his sport, and a recognizeable face that makes him not just a fighter but a business unto himself.
Which isn't to say that St-Pierre shares De La Hoya's long term ambition. He might not want to trade the stress of being a fighter for the headaches of employing a roster of them. Not now, not ever.
But this isn't about St-Pierre. Its about the top-down structure of the UFC that allows fighters like him to earn very good money, but never enough to acquire clout.
Not at $400,000 per win.
So even if he wanted to graduate from competing in the UFC to competing against them, the chances of him making it happen are slimmer than St-Pierre himself the morning of the weigh in.
Which is to say it won't happen.
And the UFC doesn't mind that at all.
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