Combat sports purists should worry about the payout of actual fighters before worrying about the payouts of Youtubers
Former UFC Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley recently signed a contract to fight Youtuber- turned professional boxer Jake Paul in a professional bout that would take place on August 28th as a Showtime PPV. In his previous fight, Paul took on Ben Askren, a former UFC and Bellator fighter and a former Olympic wrestler. These credentials, however, proved to be of no help as Askren was TKO’d in the first round by Jake Paul. A section of people on the internet called it a “money-grab,” and some even went as far as to accuse Askren of taking a dive in the ring for a larger paycheck. But before accusing Askren of losing to Jake Paul for money, we should discuss why someone of the stature of Ben Askren, who is a former Olympian and Bellator champion, would need to fight a YouTuber in the first place.
This agreement stems from the amount of money elite fighters in the UFC make for one event compared to a mainstream high-ranked boxer. Both Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren have publicly stated that fighting Jake Paul provides them with the “biggest paychecks of their career.” Even an 0–1 Youtuber like Logan Paul made $20 million fighting Mayweather in an exhibition match which is more than what Mcgregor or Khabib have made in any of their UFC fights. This might not sound absurd to somebody who just started watching combat sports, but for fighting fans who have followed this sport for decades, it is baffling how both Woodley, and Askren, who have devoted their lives to this sport and have fought very high-skilled Mixed martial artists in the octagon are paid more for fighting a 3–0 Youtube boxer.
Historically, elite UFC fighters are paid significantly lesser than an established professional boxer. A top-level boxer earns millions of dollars for headlining events. In contrast, the main event card in the UFC would normally earn the fighter a couple hundred thousand dollars (barring certain fighters in the UFC). Even Conor McGregor has admitted that stepping into the ring with Floyd has earned him more money than any of his fights in the UFC, including the ones against stars like Nate Diaz and Jose Aldo.
Interestingly, a professional boxer who is at the initial stages of his career earns around $40,060 per year according to a 2012 survey which is significantly lesser than that of a professional UFC fighter which is around $146,673 per year, and this is still lesser than what fighters like Khabib and Mcgregor earn. To reach the UFC level, the fighter needs to struggle in lower-tier fighting competitions such as multiple national championships or going through the TUF and doing well in the Bellator competition. A professional boxer does not have similar leagues to compete in and must face other professional boxers for lower pay and make their way to the top.
However, when it comes to the higher-ranked boxers, they would earn more in one night than the biggest name in the UFC would earn in 2–3 fights combined.
This has translated into frustration among UFC fighters who believe that they are fighting the more “dangerous” fights since below the waist is open to the opponent, unlike boxing, but still getting paid less than top-level boxers.
To put this into perspective, arguably the biggest name in boxing, Floyd Mayweather Jr. alone, has made around $560 million in his career, which is more than the career earnings of the top 10 highest paid UFC fighters combined. This invokes a desire in UFC fighters to step into the ring and make more money even though they put their legacy on the line in fighting professional boxers to get a larger payday. UFC stars like Mcgregor, Anderson Silva, Ben Askren, and now Tyron Woodley and more will follow if there isn’t a drastic change in the paycheck received by UFC fighters.
In the end, the people who question the credibility of Youtube fighters and say it's “bad for the sport” have to introspect and think if they are actually questioning the root of the issue. Elite UFC fighters would never step in the ring with Youtubers if there were no money behind them, but they do. Unfortunately, the amount of money YouTubers like the Paul brothers have behind them is much more than they could earn even if they get into the octagon with the number one pound-for-pound fighter in their weight class. So if the Combat sports purists have such resentment towards celebrity boxing and UFC fighters being involved, they should question Dana White and the UFC federation rather than the Paul brothers, who have every right to fight any fighter willing to go through the process and stepping into the ring with them.