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Fighter’s Pay Depends on The Fighters Themselves

Fighters are reflections of the fans’ souls: both the parts they love and the parts that they hate about themselves. Fans project all types of assumptions, and criticisms onto fighters subconsciously. Michael Bisping embodies resiliency for both the weak and the strong. The strong see their reflection and the weak live vicariously through his heroics after setback after setback. Jon Jones embodies the evil within us all: the recidivist who is shackled to indulgences. The more he wins, the more fans hate.  

A post shared by MMA Junkie (@mmajunkiedotcom) on Jun 4, 2018 at 8:19am PDT

The unjust are supposed to be quelled by the righteous, otherwise what is the point of everyone else following the rules, none. Jon’s refusal to hide his arrogance is profitable. The emotions his actions elicit are profitable. And if for no other reason, every fighter complaining about their contract should be as transparent as Bisping (in his youth) and Jones for the sake of their income.

Though MMA promoters will not hand over the money simply because fighters ask for it, one thing that can help raise their purses is self-promotion. Too many fighters fail to hold themselves accountable for promoting themselves, and even more seem to complain and remain confused why they are not paid what they feel that deserve. ‘I just want to fight’ and, ‘I do my taking in the cage’ are excuses and misunderstandings of what self-promotion and advocacy really requires. Gracefully though, two fighters have laid the foundation using opposite approaches of self-promotion that today’s contenders, prospects and veterans can choose to follow. This should empower them to use their creativity to maximize their instrumentality over their own careers.

A post shared by MMA UNCENSORED ™️ (@mmauncensored__) on Oct 30, 2019 at 1:15pm PDT

Fighters like GSP have led the march in first building your brand to a higher value, then demanding that he receive what he is worth without being verbose. He was the first to commit to wearing suits in press appearances, demonstrating a professionalism that was not yet pronounced in the sport. This, along with his performances allowed him to land and maintain a long-standing relationship with Under Armour. This was during a strong period of stigma against the sport of MMA and its athletes. GSP’s approach was largely professional in appearance and traditional in terms of his behavior as a martial artist.

Conor popularized the wearing of suits and embraced the brash, materialistic nature that accompanies prize fighting. He was a garrulous in his advocacy for pay increases and mainstream attention and shameless about it. Both fighters contrast one another but what matters most are their results. Everyone has a different personality.

The language barrier and swagger of GSP does not allow him to maximize himself commercially the way Conor has. Conor does not seem to have the same physical appearance and disposition to be adored as the humble, super-athletic ladies-man as GSP is. Both however increased their own commercial value first, and then demanded higher purses and sponsorships etc.

A lot of fighters today are skipping the step of increasing their value and just begging for money and that is why they are not getting it. While everyone will not be rich, and everyone cannot be a star, more fighters can than they realize.

Some fighters have quirks and dispositions, if not character flaws that can elicit an emotional fan response. Others do not, but the ones that do must capitalize on it. Most fighters will never win a belt, but that still does not matter. No one aspect of this fight game is an impenetrable barrier to financial success.

A post shared by WHYWELOVEMMA (@wwlmma) on Jun 15, 2019 at 2:17pm PDT

By all accounts Chael Sonnen is a charlatan when conflating his performances to his prefight hype. His game plan never changed, his talent level never changed, but toward the end of his career what changed was his approach to the game. He used a small amount of momentum to hurl himself into a massive level of opportunity. He is adored.

Darren Till still has not won a belt, but he tells anyone who will listen that he is great and has built a large following. Him and Adesanya have almost the same personality minus a dash of bitterness and a world title. Both fighters filled stadiums and arenas near their home regions. As jaded as it sounds, fighters really can be the change they want to see. They simply must open up to the fans and take some initiative. 

A post shared by Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) on Oct 8, 2019 at 7:48am PDT

A lot of fighters want to be seen a certain way because they represent their families and communities which is fine, but all success comes at a price. It is up to each athlete to find the part of themselves that fans adore or abhor the most and establish that as their brand. That’s how you break PPV records, that’s how you fight for BMF titles, that’s how you win athlete of the year in a country where team sports dominate their mainstream media coverage. ■

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