MMA Fighters Most Underpaid, Overworked Athletes

  • Fighters are the most underpaid, overworked athletes in the world, Brendan Loughnane said.
  • The rising PFL MMA star was speaking after two UFC athletes said they were broke.
  • “We all deserve a million dollars,” Loughnane told Insider.

MMA fighters “are the most massively underpaid, overworked athletes on the planet,” rising star Brendan Loughnane told Insider this week.

The 31-year-old featherweight competes for the PFL, and returns to the cage Friday for a tournament semifinal against undefeated Dagestan opponent Movlid Khaybulaev at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida.

Fighter pay has been a hot, ongoing media topic of late, with prominent combatants recently saying that they’re broke, despite competing in UFC — the market-leading promotion, which is valued at $6 billion.

The UFC middleweight Jared Cannonier beat Kelvin Gastelum earlier this month, and then told the media at a post-event press conference that he’s “broke.”

This followed a comment from the strawweight prospect Cheyanne Buys, who said after she was awarded her first UFC performance-related bonus check in August that she’d “been so broke [her] whole life because of this sport.”

A February report by the New York Post suggested that UFC fighter pay represents 16% of revenue in 2019. In contrast, athlete pay represents 48% of revenue in the NFL, 51% in the NBA, and 54% in the MLB.

When asked about fighter pay, Loughnane said no other sportsman or woman works harder than fighters do.

“You give me a footballer and let him come train with me for a day and I’ll show you how hard it is, for what I do,” Loughnane said.

“The weight-cutting — nobody sees what goes into it. Footballers don’t have to leave their family to have a fight. It’s insane what we have to go through. We deserve more pay,” he said.

“We deserve to be paid the same as these football, basketball, baseball players — these high-level athletes. Hopefully the tide will change one day.”

It can be an awkward conversation for fighters

Anthony Pettis.

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The PFL lightweight and former UFC champion Anthony Pettis told Insider earlier this year that fighter pay can be an awkward topic for athletes because younger fighters are loathe to be transparent with their peers about what they’re earning — or not earning.

Pettis said he wished fighters talked more openly among themselves. “It’s starting to get to that point,” he said, adding that the thing that holds it back is fighters feeling like they’re in competition with others in and out of the cage.

“Speaking to other fighters about it? It’s kind of an embarrassing topic, ‘how much you making this next fight?’ Some people don’t want to say it because they’re on their first contract. But it shouldn’t be that way. We should know what the first contract is. We should know what we’re signing up for, health benefits, things like that,” he said.

Pettis, 34, left the UFC in 2020 and joined the PFL for its 2021 season. He spoke to Insider in April, before losing back-to-back bouts against Clay Collard and Raush Manfio.

Pettis had a lot of attention from rival fight firms as he entered free agency, with Bellator MMA in Los Angeles, and One Championship in Singapore, providing alternative options, he said.

But he said he chose PFL as it was “the best deal.”


Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC

PFL 9 takes place Friday and showcases the company’s featherweight and light heavyweight fighters.

Loughnane is set to fight Khaybulaev in one of two 135-pound playoffs, with the winners meeting in a $1 million final later this year.

“We all deserve a million dollars,” Loughnane said.

Leave a Comment