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Morning Report: Joe Rogan would like the UFC to get rid of the ‘win bonus’ system

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

When Zuffa sold the UFC for $4.2 billion to WME-IMG, fighter pay in the suddenly became a much more aggressively discussed topic of conversation among the MMA world. But while those talks have mostly centered around fighters receiving a bigger piece of that $4 billion pie, UFC commentator Joe Rogan is concerned about another aspect of fighter pay: win bonuses.

Every UFC fighter contract, save for those at the very top of the sport, is divided into two payment sections, “show money” and “win money.” Every fighter who steps into the cage is entitled to their “show money” (less any penalties imposed upon then, per weight cutting failures, etc...) but the “win money” can only be collected if the fighter wins their bout. Speaking recently his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show, Rogan argued for doing away with the “win bonus” entirely because of the consistent failures in MMA judging.

“[Win bonuses are] to me is a real issue. I think a guy should be paid what they get paid. I think if you have a contract, the contract should be for ‘X’ amount of money [and] if you have points on the pay-per-view, that’s on top of that; but the idea that your win or loss could be in the hands of what we have deemed completely incompetent judges. . . [We see it] every week!”

Poor judging is nothing new to MMA or combat sports in general, and the “win bonus” system does make losing a bad decision even more unpalatable, especially since “win bonuses” are usually equal to the “show money” a fighter receives, meaning that loss can feel like losing half a paycheck too. And that’s the rub for Rogan. In a sport where commissions regularly employ judges with a history of bad decision rendering, having the financial welfare of a fighter dependent on that person on top of their career welfare is a bridge too far.

“I’ve heard [criticism for calling out bad judging] from Athletic Commissions, but I say, ‘Go f**k yourself,’” Rogan said. “There’s guys in there that are fighting for their life. They literally guys train for months and months and someone who literally doesn’t understand martial arts is giving these guys a decision, a loss or a win and that’s 50 percent of their money. That’s crazy!”

Rogan also suggests that another way to circumvent this problem would be to pursue a more accurate judicial system for MMA by employing five judges per fight and having disciplinary action for judges who turn in bad scorecards. But, Rogan argues, the reality is that the “win bonus” system is a relic of a time gone by, meant to incentivize fighters to fight harder to win more and, at this point in time, that just isn’t true.

“It’s literally like stealing money from these kids,” concluded Rogan. “I just don’t like the win bonus and I don’t think anybody fights harder for it.”


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