UFC flyweight Sarah Alpar was still in shock at the response to a GoFundMe drive she started to help pay for training expenses leading up to her next fight. A $5,000 donation from YouTube star turned boxing star Jake Paul had just arrived.
“I got this message and it was this person that I saw a little check mark, and it said, ‘Jake Paul sent you a message,’” Alpar told What the Heck. “I was like, ‘What? You know my existence?’”
After Alpar gave her interview, Paul’s former promoter, Triller Fight Club, upped the ante with a $25,000 donation that met her fundraising goal of $30,000. At the time of this writing, the GoFundMe was over $34,000 in value.
Alpar, a former LFA women’s bantamweight champion who earned a UFC contract after a successful appearance on the Contender Series, said she was embarrassed to ask for help through an online fundraiser. She wanted to achieve her dream without any help from strangers. But as she tried to find sponsors for a fight on Sept. 18 with Erin Blanchfield, she realized how far behind she was financially. If she could get a boost, things might not be so precarious.
“I turned 30, and I don’t know, it was a midlife crisis moment? Who knows what the reason was, but I was like, I need to make this happen,” she said. “I’m not getting any younger. What to I need to do?”
Like many fighters who sign contracts with the UFC, she didn’t think she’d have to struggle to make ends meet when she joined the big show. Then the pandemic hit, she lost her octagon debut and two fights fell through.
Without fights, she was relying on her barista job at Starbucks and teaching the occasional jiu-jitsu private lesson.
“What I thought it would be that, “Oh, everything’s taken care of and I can just train full time and then my life is complete,’” she said. “And it’s not that way. Just being a fighter in general, you don’t get paid anything leading up, like the other organizations ... we’re making pennies, and that’s compared to what UFC gives us.
“I don’t have anything on UFC. I got in there and tried to fight, and this happens and that happens. It’s just business. They’ve given me more than any other organization has. I can’t attack them for anything. It’s not their fault that [opponent] Stephanie [Egger] got COVID and couldn’t fight. They tried to find me somebody. I don’t blame them for my situation, I’m just in the situation that I’m in. It is what it is. But I’m trying the best I can, and I want to do great big things and I want to be a role model and I love to fight. So this is what I chose, and I asked for some help.”
That request for help led to some unintended consequences. Both Paul and Triller took aim at the UFC’s pay practices, and some MMA critics trashed her for going hat in hand given her choice to become a professional fighter.
Alpar wasn’t trying to be a lightning rod for controversy. Instead, she hoped her fundraiser would inspire others to go for their dreams. She especially hoped to motivate young girls and women to be strong by being strong in the cage.
The reaction to the drive, however, is out of her control. She’s moving forward anyway to put the money toward good use.
“I’m trying to get the fullest out of my training and to do the best I can and be the best I can be,” she said. “I’m not just doing it for myself. I’m trying to be a role model for others. I’m trying to put all my focus on training and go where I need to go to make that happen.”