The breakdown of Conor McGregor's €5m UFC 189 pay out
This week’s MMA column focuses on the business side of UFC 189. In particular we’ll take a look at estimating what sort of a pay day UFC 189 was for Conor McGregor.
UFC 189 was a resounding success for both the UFC and Conor McGregor.
For the company, UFC 189 was the second highest attended event in UFC history. Only UFC 129 in Toronto saw more paying fans through the gate, which drew a $12m gate with over 55,000 in attendance. UFC 189 drew a gate of $7.2m from the 16,019 fans attending.
It was the biggest UFC event ever held in the US and in the MGM Grand.
‘The Notorious’ not only won the interim featherweight title, he capitalised on the monetary aspect of the fight game with relentless promotion of UFC 189.
While most fighters would have been relaxing between training sessions McGregor took down time as an opportunity to hype his fight and monetize his product. He was an ever present at any media event related to UFC 189.
Here are the various ways the Dubliner got paid for his dramatic UFC 189 victory.
His disclosed pay for the fight was $500,000 and he also received a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus of $50,000. The UFC are a private company so they only have to disclose the official pay for fighters.
From time to time, fighters are given ‘locker room’ bonuses if they missed out on a ‘Fight/Performance of the Night’ or if they fought a good fight or were in some way deemed to have added value to the event.
It's unlikely Conor got a locker room bonus given the size of his official pay and his other financial arrangements.
The UFC makes most of its money off Pay-Per-View revenue from the US market.
These are typically the numbered events, for example UFC 189. ‘Fight Night’ events like The Ultimate Fighter Finale or smaller events like UFC Dublin are broadcast on local TV in various regions, the Fox network in the US or through the UFC’s digital platform Fight Pass. The PPV cost for viewers in the US is approximately $50 or $60 for high definition per event.
Headlining fighters are typically offered a cut of the PPV revenue as an incentive to promote the event. Once the event passes a certain hurdle the fighter is then rewarded. The revenue share increases for fighters as the PPV numbers increase.
For example, to benefit from PPV revenue the event would have been in excess of 100,000 buys. Once this hurdle is cleared that entitles the fighter to $1 of each fee paid. The more successful the event, the more the fighter can make. For example, if the event has over 500,000 buys the fighter may get $3 of each fee.
These are not official figures but based on previously reported pay structures, purely illustrative to show how the PPV cut works.
The biggest PPV event so far was UFC 100, which had 1.6 million buys. At the post fight press conference UFC president Dana White indicated UFC 189 may be bigger than UFC 100.
The actual numbers may not be known for another few days.
Again, purely for illustration, if UFC 189 had 1.7 million buys and Conor received $3 per fee he would make approximately $5 million from his PPV cut alone.
Reebok recently signed a deal worth $70 million over six years. It gives all the fighters a guaranteed level of sponsor pay depending on how many fights they’ve had with the UFC or other promotions bought by the parent company, Zuffa.
As a title challenger, Conor is guaranteed to make $30,000, instead of the $5,000 he should have gotten for his sixth fight. In his next fight he will be guaranteed $40,000 as interim champion.
Reebok has arranged individual sponsorship deals with selected UFC athletes, McGregor being one. It was never revealed how much the individual arrangement was worth.
In addition to experience-based pay, UFC fighters receive royalties on any of their Reebok merchandise sold. It’s estimated this is worth 20-30 per cent of the sale price. McGregor’s replica UFC 189 apparel is currently retailing for $95.
Monster Energy are one of the few companies that are also allowed sponsor UFC athletes. You may have noticed Conor clutching a can of Monster energy drink in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.
A can was again strategically placed in front of him at the post-event press conference. It’s not known how much Monster are paying fighters
An overall estimate for Conor’s UFC 189 pay-day would be somewhere between €1-2m based on a conservative buy rate for the PPV.
However, considering all other metrics associated with the event were record breakers – weigh-in attendance, event attendance, social media activity, YouTube video plays, website traffic – it’s hard to imagine the PPV buy number won’t be big, most likely over one million buys.
Between disclosed UFC and Reebok pay, estimated PPV revenue share and undisclosed sponsorship deals its more likely Conor made somewhere in the region of $5 million for his work.
To put this in perspective Michael Bisping has received the most in disclosed pay across his 23 fight UFC career, totalling around €5 million.
In an interview in 2013, Dana White let slip the UFC paid one fighter $5 million for a single fight. It certainly hasn’t happened too often as the UFC was a loss making company up until 2007.
Regardless, the Conor McGregor machine is a powerful force with a lot of people and companies set to make good money from his efforts. It’s good to see the man himself is taking a nice slice of the action.