MMA fighters: Please don’t fight for your family

Marion Reneau is just the latest MMA fighter who says she’s fighting to support her family / give her family a better life:

UFC women’s bantamweight contender Marion Reneau, who is pushing 40, started MMA in her early 30s to help finance her son’s college fund.(From MMA FIghting)

Let’s take a look at the money available in the UFC …

UFC 189, one of the biggest cards in history, paid most of its fighters $10-15K to fight, plus the same amount as a win bonus. (Conor McGregor made a bit more. Just a bit.)

Reneau was actually on a lower pay scale, the dreaded “8+8” scale, for her January fight. She got a bit more because her opponent turned up overweight.

I can’t find the numbers for her February fight, possibly because it was in Brazil. She did get a $50,000 performance bonus.

Then there’s sponsorship. With the Reebok exclusivity, a fighter like Reneau will make $2,500 per fight. A couple more fights, and she’ll make $5,000.

So she might gross $100,000 for the year so far. Not bad, right?

Now consider the following factors:

  • Fighters are paying managers, corner personnel, trainers, etc.
  • This might be a once-in-a-lifetime year for Reneau. Her loss last night to Holly Holm, in an unimpressive fight, put her back down the ladder. Half of her income is one performance bonus — if another fighter had a more impressive knockout or submission on that card, she wouldn’t get that money.
  • Many fighters don’t get three fights a year in the UFC. The roster is too crowded.

So Reneau might clear six figures if she has some other sponsorship that she can tout outside the Reebok-only cage. Or maybe she wins the virtual lottery to get a rare fourth fight this year.

Then next year, she might get two fights and end up with about $30K. And she’s almost 40.

Reneau’s other job was teaching in the Farmersville (Calif.) Unified School District. Minimum salary: $41,485.

This post isn’t about picking on Reneau, though. She picked up a nice bonus. Invest that wisely, then get back to teaching and push that salary into the $50Ks, and she’s on firm footing financially.

Reneau’s plan is much sounder than that of the typical UFC fringe performer you see on The Ultimate Fighter. These are the people who stare into the camera, cry a little and tell us they’re fighting so their families will have a future.

If you’re telling me that, please tell me you have a backup plan.

Reneau is both good — she’s one of the 20 best in her weight class — and lucky. That gets her one good year of solid earnings. A second is no sure bet.

So if you’re the 10th best welterweight in your gym, please do your family a favor and make sure you’ve got some way to make a living other than fighting.

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