Transparency in pay is a fundamental feature empowering fighters to better understand their value and have informed negotiations with promoters. Knowledge is power.
A troubling trend, however, is an increasing number of jurisdictions cloaking prizefighting pay in secrecy keeping fighters in the dark as to what others are earning. Arizona appears to be the latest jurisdiction to join this trend.
In recent years Florida and Nevada also went dark. Promoter lobbying is a likely force behind these developments.
As John Nash points out, these favoured jurisdictions of various combat sports promoters has left a significant void in fighter and public knowledge as to purses.
A recent event in California, a jurisdiction that still reports fighter pay, revealed that the UFC still pays some of their fighters a base of only $10,000, a figure many believed the promotion moved on from. This caused a reporter to astutely note that all these lowest paid fighters were being fed into the organization via Dana White’s Contender Series.
The Ali Act, legislation which has gone a long way in letting professional boxers negotiate their fair worth, requires promoters to open the books to boxers with the law noting as follows:
“a promoter shall not be entitled to receive any compensation directly or indirectly in connection with a boxing match until it provides to the boxer it promotes –
(1) the amounts of compensation or consideration that a promoter has contracted to receive from such match; and
(2) all fees, charges, and expenses that will be assessed by or through the promoter on the boxer pertaining to the event, including any portion of the boxer’s purse that the promoter will receive, and training expenses; and
(3) any reduction in a boxer’s purse contrary to a previous agreement betwen the promoter and the boxer or a purse bid held for the event“
This disclosure tells boxer’s their actual worth. It empowers them when negotiating a new contract. MMA athletes enjoy no such protection. If it was not for the efforts of the MMAFA and their antitrust litigation UFC fighters would still be in the dark that they take home a mere 15%-20% of the revenues the promotion generates. A stark contrast to the 50/50 splits seen in many major league sports and a far cry from some of the splits professional boxers can negotiate.
The sport is prize fighting. It is odd that regulators would allow knowledge of the amount of the ‘prizes’ to remain secret. This secrecy helps promoters and hurts fighters. While pro boxers can force promoters to open their books under the Ali Act MMA fighters lack this protection.
Jurisdictions agreeing to such secrecy should think twice and remember their role in helping fighters minimize promoter exploitation. Financial transparency for fighters is one way the Ali Act helped boxers obtain negotiation leverage with promoters. Jurisdictions becoming a beacon of obscurity for promoter profiteering runs contrary to why commissions exist.