Jared Cannonier picked up a big win this past Saturday night when he defeated Kelvin Gastelum by decision in the UFC Vegas 34 main event but afterwards all anybody could talk about was his post-fight interview.
Just moments after securing the win, the 37-year-old middleweight contender confessed that he was “broke” and he needed to fight again sooner rather than later.
Thanks to injuries suffered inside the octagon, Cannonier has only been able to fight twice in the past two years and that put a financial burden on him and his family, especially after he left his prior full-time job where he was working at the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).
On Monday during an appearance on The MMA Hour, Cannonier explained his comments while also revealing just how much of his paycheck disappears before ever actually hitting his bank account.
“It’s not dire, it’s just a natural occurrence if you will,” Cannonier said about his financial situation. “Of course coming off the injury, I’m not balling out of control or anything like that, and a lot of people don’t understand that when we have these fights that we owe people money after these fights. After this win, 60 percent of my money is already gone. Between the gym, between management, between taxes, on top of that I’ve got bills, credit cards, I got kids, I’ve got a house up in Alaska, I’ve got a house here, I’ve got car payments. That money goes. Money don’t last forever.
“Right now fighting is our only revenue. I don’t have sponsors or anything like that. Fighting is my only focus. I’m not out here doing commercials or anything like that. Nobody’s asking me to be in the next Marvel movie. Not being able to fight for the last 10 months put a strain on our pockets. So I’m glad to have gotten back in there. I’m glad that I get two checks plus that main event bonus. I’m glad I’m not injured so I can do it again.”
Based on the UFC rankings, Cannonier is currently the No. 3 middleweight in the promotion but he doesn’t feel like he’s being compensated for the position he’s earned in the division.
While most major sports leagues like the NFL or NBA have collective bargaining agreements negotiated with player unions that guarantee the athletes a certain percentage of revenue earned — typically around 50 percent — the UFC has no such agreement in place.
Based on information revealed through an ongoing class action lawsuit against the UFC by a group of ex-fighters, the promotion has typically paid out 20 percent of revenue or less to the athletes over the years. Unlike other leagues, the UFC also doesn’t have a contacted “minimum” contract where athletes are guaranteed a certain salary such as the NHL where players earn at least $750,000 per year for the 2021-2022 season.
“I’m not here to say the UFC isn’t paying me,” Cannonier said. “Because I’m getting paid pretty good from the UFC. It’s just that money don’t last forever. I’m not out here balling out of control, I’m not splurging or anything like that. I’m not stupid, I don’t spend my money on dumb stuff but it’s just life I guess. I would like to get paid.
“I am an elite level athlete. I would like to get paid like an elite level athlete. Like the one’s in the NFL and NBA and the one’s playing baseball and soccer and doing all that stuff. They get sponsors but they don’t need sponsors. All they need is that check through the organization. That’s what we need here in the UFC. That’s what we would all like.”
While Cannonier was making his last paycheck from a fight against Robert Whittaker in October 2020 stretch until he got back in the cage this past Saturday night, he believes fighters should have far more financial security than that.
Both of his recent layoffs have been due to injuries suffered in UFC fights, and while the promotion pays for the surgeries required to repair the damage done, Cannonier still has to support his family in the mean time until he can compete again.
According to Cannonier, he hasn’t been able to put much away into savings lately, which obviously affects him long term because he can’t fight forever.
“I should have six figures in my account that I don’t even need to touch,” Cannonier said. “I shouldn’t have to worry about ‘if I get injured and I can’t fight anymore, what the hell am I going to do?’ Unfortunately, that is a situation that a lot of us fighters are in —that I’m in myself.
“My wife is getting ready to get up and go to work, which is against the structure that we have as a family. She has there’s so much here at the house, maintaining the home, taking care of the kids, making sure everything is where it needs to be so I can go and do my thing, not have to worry about everything else that’s going on.”
With his wife training for a new job, Cannonier admits that he’s been forced to change his own training schedule to prepare for fights. That was the same hindrance he faced while working a full-time job previously before eventually quitting to focus solely on his UFC career.
To be clear, Cannonier says he wouldn’t want to fight anywhere else because he loves competing in the UFC but he adds that “bigger fights should definitely mean bigger paychecks” and that’s not something he’s truly experienced yet.
“I’m not complaining. It’s the UFC pay structure, we sign our contracts,” Cannonier explained. “But yes, I do want a bigger check. I don’t want be like these guys we see in the NFL, I’m not one of these guys to be out stunting on people and flossing and splurging like that. There’s bigger and better things I could be doing with my money.
“I’ve never been happier. This is the best job I’ve ever had in my life. I think the UFC takes very good care of its athletes. They make sure we have everything we need, especially during fight week. It’s the premier organization for mixed martial arts in the world. I’m part of history in that regard. I’m grateful and I’m blessed to be part of this organization. Yes, I do want more money. I would like one fight to be able to hold me up for at least two years, not one. Then off of that, we build off that.”