The Business of Fighting: Why Promotions and Sponsorship Matter for MMA Athletes

March 31, 2023
From: Spartacus
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Promotions, sponsorship, and pay are crucial factors that can make or break a fighter’s career in combat sports.

Promotions are organisations that promote and organise events in which fighters compete. The promotion a fighter is associated with can determine the level of exposure, opportunities, and compensation they receive.

Sponsorship, on the other hand, involves companies or brands investing in fighters to promote their products or services. Sponsorship can provide fighters with additional income and exposure, and can also elevate their marketability.

Pay is the compensation fighters receive for their performances, and it can vary widely depending on a fighter’s skill level, marketability, and negotiation skills. The amount of money a fighter earns can impact their motivation, financial stability, and longevity in the sport.

All of these factors work together to shape a fighter’s career trajectory, and can have long-term implications for their success in and outside of the ring or cage.

We’ll explore the significance of these factors, and how they can influence a fighter’s success and longevity. We’ll also provide tips and insights into how fighters can navigate these factors to maximise their opportunities and achieve their goals. So, if you’re a combat sports fan or a fighter yourself, this article is definitely worth a read!

What are Promotions?

As mentioned above, promotions are organisations that promote and organise events in which fighters compete. These events can be local, regional, or international, and can vary in terms of the rules, weight classes, and styles of combat. Promotions can range from small-scale, grassroots organisations to large, global enterprises. Examples of major promotions include the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Bellator MMA, ONE Championship and Spartacus MMA.

Role of Promotions in the Development of Fighters’ Careers 

Promotions play a significant role in the development of fighters’ careers. Here are some of the ways in which promotions impact fighters:

  • Exposure: Promotions provide fighters with exposure to a wider audience, which can help them build their fan base and increase their marketability. By promoting events and fighters, promotions can help fighters reach new fans and expand their reach.
  • Income: Promotions are responsible for paying fighters for their fights, and the amount of money a fighter earns can vary widely depending on the promotion they work for. Promotions can also provide fighters with additional income through sponsorship deals, which can be an important source of revenue for those who are not earning high paychecks from their fights.
  • Career progression: Promotions can also play a role in a fighter’s career progression. By promoting fighters to higher-profile events and title fights, promotions can help fighters achieve their career goals and gain recognition in the sport.
  • Training opportunities: Some promotions also provide fighters with training opportunities and resources, such as coaching and fitness facilities. These resources can be valuable for fighters who are looking to improve their skills and achieve success in the sport.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Working with Different Promotions

Working with different promotions can have both benefits and drawbacks for fighters. The benefits of working with a major promotion like the UFC or Bellator include increased exposure, higher pay, and access to top-level competition. However, these promotions may also have more stringent contracts and requirements, and may limit fighters’ ability to compete in other promotions.

Working with smaller, regional promotions can offer fighters more opportunities to gain experience and build their record. These promotions may also have more flexible contracts and rules, which can allow fighters to compete more frequently and in a wider range of events. However, smaller promotions may have lower pay and less exposure, which can limit fighters’ earning potential and marketability.

what are mma promotions

What are Sponsorships?

Sponsorship is when companies or brands invest in fighters to promote their products or services. Sponsorship can take many forms, from companies providing fighters with gear and equipment to full-fledged endorsement deals. Sponsorship can be an important source of income for fighters, and it can also help them build their personal brand and expand their reach beyond the combat sports community.

Importance of Sponsorship in a Fighter’s Career

By cultivating relationships with sponsors and building their personal brand, fighters can increase their earning potential and achieve long-term success in the sport. Sponsorship is an important factor in a fighter’s career for several reasons:

  • Additional income: Sponsorship deals can provide fighters with additional income, which can be especially important for those who are not earning high paychecks from their fights. Sponsorship income can help fighters cover their training expenses, travel costs, and living expenses, allowing them to focus more on their training and career.
  • Exposure: Sponsorship deals can also provide fighters with exposure to a wider audience, which can help them build their personal brand and increase their marketability. By wearing sponsor logos and promoting their products, fighters can reach fans and potential sponsors who may not have known about them otherwise.
  • Endorsement deals: Sponsorship deals can also lead to endorsement deals, where fighters are paid to promote specific products or brands. Endorsement deals can provide fighters with significant income and can be a valuable source of revenue for those who are successful in building their personal brand.
  • Longevity in the sport: Finally, sponsorship can help fighters achieve longevity in the sport. Sponsorship income can provide fighters with financial stability, which can reduce the likelihood of them retiring early or switching to another career. Additionally, successful sponsorship deals can increase a fighter’s marketability, making them more desirable to promotions and fans.

Different Types of Sponsorship Opportunities for Fighters

Fighters can build successful careers in the sport by building their personal brands and cultivating relationships with sponsors and stakeholders. There are several types of sponsorship opportunities available for fighters in combat sports, including:

  • Apparel and equipment sponsorships: Fighters can receive sponsorship deals from companies that produce apparel and equipment for combat sports, such as gloves, shorts, and training gear. These sponsorships can provide fighters with free or discounted gear, as well as additional income through endorsement deals.
  • Nutritional and supplement sponsorships: Many fighters also receive sponsorship deals from companies that produce nutritional supplements, such as protein powders and energy drinks. These sponsorships can provide fighters with free or discounted products, as well as additional income through endorsement deals.
  • Brand sponsorships: Fighters can also receive sponsorships from non-combat sports brands that are looking to increase their exposure in the combat sports world. These sponsorships can range from clothing brands to tech companies, and can provide fighters with additional income and exposure.
  • Local sponsorships: Fighters can also receive sponsorships from local businesses in their community, such as restaurants or gyms. These sponsorships can provide fighters with additional income and exposure, as well as support from their local community.

How sponsorships can affect a fighter’s income and marketability?

Fighters with strong sponsorship deals can leverage their brand to attract additional opportunities and build a fanbase, which can further contribute to their success. Sponsorship can also provide fighters with stability outside of the ring or cage, as it can supplement their earnings from fights and provide them with additional income streams.

what are mma fighters pay

Pay in MMA – How do Fighters get Paid?

Pay in combat sports refers to the amount of money fighters earn for their performances, including fights and other related activities such as appearances and sponsorships. Fighters’ pay can vary widely depending on their skill level, marketability, and the organisation they fight for.

Impact of Pay on a Fighter’s Motivation and Career Choices

Pay can have a significant impact on a fighter’s motivation and career choices. Here are some ways in which pay can affect fighters:

  • Motivation: Higher pay can provide fighters with a greater sense of financial security and stability, which can in turn increase their motivation to train and compete. When fighters feel like they are being fairly compensated for their efforts, they may be more inclined to put in the hard work necessary to reach the top of their sport.
  • Career choices: Pay can also influence a fighter’s career choices. Fighters may choose to sign with promotions that offer higher pay or pursue fights that come with bigger paydays. Alternatively, fighters may be more inclined to retire or switch careers if they feel that they are not being compensated adequately for their efforts.
  • Risk-taking: Pay can also impact a fighter’s willingness to take risks in the ring or cage. Fighters who are earning a lot of money may be less inclined to take risks that could potentially lead to injury, as they may want to protect their future earning potential. On the other hand, fighters who are not earning as much may be more willing to take risks in order to make a name for themselves and increase their earning potential in the long run.

What are the Factors that Determine a Fighter’s Pay

 A fighter’s pay is influenced by a combination of factors related to their skill level, marketability, and the business of combat sports. By developing their skills, building their personal brand, and cultivating relationships with industry stakeholders, fighters can increase their earning potential and build successful careers in combat sports. There are several factors that can determine a fighter’s pay in combat sports, including:

  • Skill level: A fighter’s skill level is a significant factor in determining their pay. Fighters who are considered to be elite or top-ranked in their division typically receive higher pay than those who are less skilled or lower-ranked.
  • Marketability: A fighter’s marketability can also influence their pay. Factors such as their personality, fighting style, and record can all impact their marketability and make them more attractive to promoters, sponsors, and fans.
  • Importance of the fight: The importance of a particular fight can also impact a fighter’s pay. Main events and title fights often come with higher pay, as they are typically more high-profile and generate more revenue for the promotion.
  • Negotiation skills: Fighters who are skilled negotiators may be able to secure higher pay than those who are not as experienced in contract negotiation.
  • Contract status: Fighters who are under contract with a promotion may have less negotiating power than free agents, as their pay is typically determined by the terms of their contract.

How does pay affect a fighter’s longevity and post-fighting career options?

Pay can also play a role in a fighter’s longevity and post-fighting career options. Low pay can make it difficult for fighters to continue competing as they age, as they may need to find other sources of income. High pay, on the other hand, can provide fighters with the financial resources to retire comfortably and pursue other career options once their fighting career is over.

fighters impact

The Intersection of Promotions, Sponsorship, and Pay

Promotions, sponsorship, and pay can all intersect to affect a fighter’s career in various ways. For example, a fighter’s success in the ring or cage can lead to increased sponsorship opportunities and higher pay. Similarly, working with a popular promotion can increase a fighter’s exposure and marketability, leading to more sponsorship opportunities and higher pay. Conversely, a fighter’s lack of success or popularity can lead to fewer opportunities for sponsorship and lower pay.

Examples of fighters who have benefited or suffered from the interaction of these factors

There are many fighters who have benefited or suffered from the interaction of promotions, sponsorship, and pay. Here are a few examples:

  • Conor McGregor – McGregor’s success in the UFC and his strong personal brand have led to numerous sponsorship deals and high pay. He has worked with companies such as Reebok, Beats by Dre, and Budweiser, and has reportedly earned tens of millions of dollars from his fights.
  • Jon Jones – Jones is widely considered one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, but he has had a tumultuous relationship with the UFC and has struggled to secure lucrative sponsorship deals. In 2015, the UFC signed an exclusive sponsorship deal with Reebok, which eliminated individual sponsorship opportunities for fighters and led to criticism from many fighters, including Jones.
  • Ronda Rousey – Rousey’s success in the UFC and her mainstream appeal made her a highly sought-after sponsor for companies such as Reebok, Carl’s Jr., and Monster Energy. She was one of the highest-paid fighters in the UFC and helped to raise the profile of women’s MMA.
  • Demetrious Johnson – Johnson was one of the most dominant fighters in UFC history, but he struggled to attract sponsorship deals due to his small stature and lack of mainstream appeal. He famously negotiated a unique sponsorship deal with Xbox in 2016, which allowed him to wear the company’s logo on his shorts during fights.
  • Jorge Masvidal – Masvidal rose to prominence in 2019 after a string of impressive wins, including a record-setting knockout of Ben Askren. He quickly became one of the most popular fighters in the UFC and secured numerous sponsorship deals, including a deal with Reebok and a sponsorship from Presidente beer

Role of agents and managers in negotiating deals with promotions and sponsors

Agents and managers play a critical role in negotiating deals with promotions and sponsors on behalf of fighters. They are responsible for managing their clients’ careers, negotiating contracts, and securing the best possible opportunities for their clients.

In combat sports, agents and managers can help fighters navigate the complex landscape of promotions and sponsors. They can leverage their industry knowledge and connections to secure favorable deals for their clients, whether that means negotiating better fight purses, securing lucrative sponsorship deals, or getting their clients signed to a major promotion.

Agents and managers can also help fighters build their personal brands and expand their reach beyond the combat sports community. They can help fighters develop their social media presence, coordinate media appearances, and build relationships with sponsors and other industry stakeholders.

Conclusion

Fighters should take a strategic approach to their careers and focus on developing their skills, building their personal brand, and cultivating relationships with industry stakeholders. It’s essential for fighters to educate themselves on these factors and to work with experienced agents and managers to navigate the complex landscape of combat sports.

We encourage all fighters to be proactive in managing their careers and to seek out opportunities to maximize their exposure, income, and career progression. With dedication, hard work, and the right support, fighters can achieve their goals and make a name for themselves in the world of combat sports.

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