John Makdessi’s Financial Revelations Following UFC 293 in Sydney Uncover a Complicated Reality

September 15, 2023
From: Spartacus

In the high-octane world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), the action inside the Octagon often overshadows the intricate workings outside of it. UFC 293 in Sydney, Australia, was no exception, featuring an electrifying main event in which Sean Strickland bested Israel Adesanya. But beneath the sheen of adrenaline and bravado, John Makdessi, a 20-fight UFC veteran, revealed a less glamorous and more complex side of the sport: the financial intricacies that fighters navigate.

Makdessi disclosed his earnings for his UFC 293 bout against Jamie Mullarkey via social media, presenting an invoice that broke down his initial $58,000 purse to a stark $28,461.65. The document highlighted significant deductions for taxes, medical expenses, airfare, and miscellaneous costs. In a tweet capturing his sentiment, Makdessi stated, “I sacrificed my whole life for this sport and put everything on the line. Damn Australian government and the judges robbed me pretty badly.”

The decision to go public with this information was notable, given that Makdessi is one of the most tenured fighters in the UFC. He signed on with the promotion back in 2010 and has compiled an 11-9 record in the UFC’s lightweight division. This bout marked his second consecutive loss, placing him at a 1-3 record over his past four fights. He counts among his most notable victories the likes of Ross Pearson, Abel Trujillo, Mehdi Baghdad, Sam Stout, and Daron Cruickshank.

Among the reductions from his original purse, the most startling was a 45% tax imposed by the Australian government, which amounted to $21,600. This significant tax burden underscored the very real and often overlooked costs that fighters incur when competing internationally.

This revelation not only exposes the opaque financial dynamics that fighters grapple with but also dovetails with concerns expressed by other UFC athletes. Welterweight contender Kevin Holland has also spoken out about the implications of such a tax burden. Holland stated that he would consider fighting in Australia only if the UFC agreed to cover the tax on his income, illustrating the extent to which financial considerations influence fighters’ decisions about where to compete. 

Holland, in a press conference, addressed his philosophy about his MMA career, saying, “Doesn’t really bother me, I’m not really the guy looking for a belt. I’m just looking to stay active… I like how I get paid, and the way I get paid is to show up and to win fights… I don’t concern myself with belts whatsoever.”

It’s clear that there is a growing sentiment among fighters that the thrill of the fight isn’t the sole driving force; there’s also the practical matter of ensuring financial security. The complexities of these international bouts include not just the physical and mental preparation fighters must undergo but also a web of logistical and financial considerations that can drastically affect their earnings and overall career trajectory. 

This set of circumstances prompts vital questions about the sport’s governing structures and the level of transparency and support available to its athletes. Should there be a more standardised compensation system that takes into account the multiple variables impacting a fighter’s take-home pay? As the sport evolves and globalises, issues around equitable pay and transparent accounting become increasingly salient, demanding critical attention from all stakeholders involved.

Makdessi’s move to reveal the intricate details of his UFC 293 earnings serves as a wakeup call for both fans and industry professionals. It may have opened up a Pandora’s box of sorts, forcing the MMA community to confront difficult questions about the sport’s economic framework. The glitz and glamour that encapsulate the Octagon during fight nights often overshadow the sobering financial realities that athletes like Makdessi face. As fighters put their very livelihoods on the line, the debate around the true cost of this chosen profession only intensifies.

The conversation ignited by Makdessi’s disclosure should serve as an inflection point for a broader discussion on financial fairness and transparency in MMA. While the spotlight often focuses on sensational knockouts and jaw-dropping submissions, the realities illuminated by Makdessi remind us that the fight for equity extends far beyond the confines of the cage.

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