THE RUKUS PERSPECTIVE- YOUR FIGHT IS YOUR BUSINESS
Hello everyone, it’s been quite awhile as I have been extremely busy with business matters that really hampered my time from doing this blog. However, in my travels and dealings over the last few months there are a lot of things that have come to light in the MMA industry. From contracts, to sponsorship, to event planning. Recently, through a series of events, I have been plunged into a plethora of behind-the-scenes situations for various fighters, companies, conventions etc. There is one resounding thing that I have always believed, but it’s even more apparent now, and that is… if you are a fighter, you are a business.
For months on end, we have seen fighter after fighter complain about their pay status within the UFC. We have heard the stories of the feeling of resentment of working for a company that makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year, while left with only pocket change after paying out for their training camps, travel costs etc. I will tell you now that I am far from a UFC “mark” but I have to look at this situation from a business standpoint.
Let’s take a company like Best Buy. For the sake of argument I will focus on the CEO and the part time hourly employees. A new CEO was brought on board in August last year to the tune of a $21 million salary package, to include a bonus structure that would max out at 4 times his $1.175 million base salary. Now go to the store level, where the average hourly employee makes approximately $8/hr. They fight on the front lines everyday, dealing with more customers than their staff can handle, they work long hours with sometimes no breaks etc. But this was the job they signed on for. Best Buy tells them, “We will pay for everything, your training, your uniform, the building, and we will bring in all of the product, etc. All you have to do is perform your job. You don’t have to do anything else. If you would like better pay, your performance must be high and must be consistent. When that is established, the opportunities for advancement will arise.”
Now let’s look at the UFC. A president and a CEO who obviously have a huge stake in the company, as being part owners to being with, whom everyone is sure that their salaries are in the stratosphere. Along with that, you have your entry level contracted fighters. Base pay is $6k/$6k. The UFC tells them “We will contract you and pay you for your work. We will give you the platform, we will cover the overhead, we will put the asses in seats for you. We are not requiring you to go out and hustle tickets, we’re not asking you to do any press, all we need you to do is show up. If you do well, we’ll give you a bonus. And if you perform at a high level and stay consistent, after three fights, we’ll negotiate a new contract where you can make more.”
Two very similar structures, except one is an employee, and another is a contracted worker. Now if the contracted worker claims that their pay isn’t good enough, then it’s time that they start looking at things from a different perspective. If you are a professional fighter, you are a business unto yourself. The MMA landscape has begun to shift over the past couple of years. We are in the post-Tapout- Multi Million dollar budget-era, where the entire industry as a whole is over saturated and inundated with different types of MMA Tees to wear. We are in an era where companies have folded because they were throwing their entire investments at fighter sponsorship and they did not have a proper plan in place to make a return on their investment. They didn’t understand how to mathematically quantify their marketing dollars to turn them into a profit. They were in the mindset that if their brand was shown in the UFC, that they were going to be ok. Well this is not the case, and the same needs to be said for pro fighters, specifically those at the entry level of the UFC, Bellator or WSOF.
If you know, before you even start a training camp that your show money is not going to cover your expenses, then you have to take advantage of the fact that you ARE a business. Get some good representation who can steer you in the right direction if you don’t know where to start. BUILD YOUR BRAND. Start reaching out for sponsorship opportunities, schedule appearances, do autograph signings, start booking seminars, do interviews, work your social media! Get a Custom Walkout song that you can set up on iTunes, get your fans to download in support of you (yes that was a shameless plug). It is vital that you know what your “overhead” is going to be and what your goal is to survive. YOU HOLD THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS OR THE LACK THEREOF. When you reach out to a sponsor and they offer you far less than what you are looking for, don’t be offended and pass over it immediately, ask them how they arrived at that figure, have a dialogue with them, because those days of throwing a ton of money at every fighter they see are gone, they are wising up. If your training expenses are too high, maybe you need to have a conversation with your camp, and talk about ways to make things work, maybe you teach a class once a week or something. Rest assured, those training camps are making more than their fair share because “we have guys that fight in the UFC”.
The UFC does not require any of its entry level fighters to do any of these things. All they ask is for you to show up, and they’ll even cover your insurance up until fight night. But you, like every other business, have to make a profit to survive, this includes you having your own virtual P & L (profit and loss) statement. Now I’m not suggesting you have your very own spreadsheet, but you need to become very aware of every penny that comes in and what goes out. It’s not about the show money, it’s about the opportunity you have to maximize the platform you’ve been given to be successful. Your FIGHT is your BUSINESS.
*Mikey Rukus is the world leading Fight Music Producer for Customized walkout music and theme music for MMA fighters and companies. His branding strategies have helped hundreds of clients achieve a better success and knowledge within their markets.
*To view Mikey’s full body of work, please visit www.soundclick.com/mikeyrukus
*Be sure to follow Mikey on Twitter: @MikeyRukus