Michael Bisping: Criticism of UFC Fighter Pay Makes Me Mad

Michael BispingMichael Bisping doesn't mince words when you ask for his take on the thorny issue of fighter pay in the UFC.

"I'm absolutely ecstatically happy with it," the British middleweight told MMA Fighting earlier this week. "Words cannot describe."

Then again, when you look at what the six-year UFC veteran is making every time he steps in the cage, it's not hard to understand his enthusiasm. In his most recent bout against Jason "Mayhem" Miller in December, for example, Bisping pocketed a cool $425,000 for his TKO win, according to the official payouts reported by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. That figure included a win bonus of $150,000, but didn't factor in any money he may have earned through sponsorships or undisclosed bonuses.

In other words, Michael Bisping is doing just fine these days. That's why, when he saw the recent ESPN report and the ensuing online discussions about fighter compensation in the UFC, he found himself getting more than a little worked up about all the criticism he was hearing, he said.

"To be honest, it makes me mad, because people don't understand," said Bisping. "I've worked hard, and I get [the amount stipulated in the contract], but when Dana comes into the locker room and gives me a check afterwards, they don't have to do that. Far from it. I was already very happy with the money I was getting, but then they'll hand you another check on top of that and say, 'Well done...good job,' and there'll be another huge check inside the envelope."

Of course, few fighters would complain about making what Bisping makes to fight in the UFC. His per fight guarantee is among the highest in the organization for non-title holders. It's the guys further down the totem pole -- those making just a few grand to show and a few to win -- who most critics of the UFC's pay structure focus on.

But according to Bisping, even those fighters have no cause for complaint the way he sees it.

"When I was an up-and-coming fighter I used to fight in these sh---y little shows and make no money," he said. "I used to sleep in my car. I couldn't pay my bills. I had to work on the weekends. So if I had to go out now [as an incoming UFC fighter] and I had to win a few fights, make six [thousand dollars to show] and six [thousand dollars to win], that's $12,000, plus maybe two or three thousand more in sponsors, and fight three or four times a way, that's not bad money. I'd be able to pay my bills and train full-time."

It's more or less the same argument put forth in the UFC's video response to the ESPN Outside the Lines story. The basic thesis is the UFC is a venue for up-and-coming fighters to show their talent and gain some fan recognition, so they should see the meager starting pay as an investment and an opportunity, which is exactly how it's worked out for Bisping, he said.

"If you win, and you start getting some notoriety with the fans and put on a good show, your pay's going to quickly go up. You start at six and six because the UFC is running a business. It's not, 'Oh, this guy's good enough to be in the UFC? Let's pay him a quarter of a million dollars.' It's not like that. They'll pay you a decent amount just for showing up, and even that's a big jump up from the regional show that you're used to. If you do well, they'll take care of you. They'll probably give you a bonus backstage and you'll quickly be in a new contract with a significant pay raise. If you put on good shows, you'll find success."

The way Bisping sees it, it's that 'if' that makes all the difference. If you win, and if fans want to see you fight again, more money is on the way. If not, then maybe you didn't belong in the UFC to begin with.

For Bisping, it's a formula that's worked out perfectly so far. Like other Ultimate Fighter winners, he started out on the lower end of the pay scale. Now he's clocking six figures just for stepping in the cage.

"From my initial involvement with the UFC on, the UFC has done nothing but take great care of me and my family," said Bisping. "They've always gone above and beyond the call of duty. They really have. With bonuses, with care, if I ever have injuries they give me access to the best doctors and then pay for everything. Myself and my family, we're living a great lifestyle. ...I'm making more money in one fight than I could have in 20 years of my old job. So you'll never hear a bad word come out of my mouth about the UFC's pay structure."

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