The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the biggest MMA promoter in the world with no real competitors at least in terms of revenues gained. A significant portion of the top-ranked fighters has signed contracts, namely with the UFC striving to be in the spotlight and enjoy impressive remunerations. The perfect example in this regard is Conor McGregor who topped the 2021 Highest-Paid Athletes ranking ahead of names like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lebron James.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is based in the US and abides by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. The promotion organizes fighting events all over the world that attract millions of viewers and an increasing number of online punters. Rules and event formats have evolved throughout the years and currently, the UFC conducts two types of fighting shows – Numbered UFC Events and UFC Fight Nights. The first feature high-profile bouts only, including championship fights broadcasted in a pay-per-view format. UFC Fight Nights on the other hand can be currently watched after paying a monthly fee through the ESPN+ network covering battles between lower-ranked fighters.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the two formats of UFC events with their positives and characteristic differences.
Numbered UFC Events (PPV)
To watch the so-called numbered UFC events, you have to pay a one-time fee in addition to the usual subscription service, digital cable, or anything else you use. The PPV service is used to broadcast events that arouse serious spectator interest, such as professional boxing matches, UFC fights, professional wrestling, concerts, and more. The majority of UFC PPV events take place in the United States with some exceptions, usually in the home country of the champion or the challenger.
It is some kind of tradition for numbered UFC events to be headlined by a championship fight, sometimes two of them are included on the same card. For now, only five UFC PPV events have included three championship battles:
The highest-grossing MMA event of all time is UFC 229 with total revenue of above $120 million. We will not surprise anybody who has even minimal knowledge of mixed martial arts by saying that one of the participants in the heading fight was Conor McGregor, a figure that has shown the world how successful MMA can be in terms of profit. His rival in 2018 was Khabib Nurmagomedov, the longest-reigning UFC Lightweight Champion. The much-anticipated fight was won by Khabib with submission due to a neck crank.
Back through the years UFC fighting events have been broadcasted by several companies including ABC, Fox, Fuel TV, Spike, Versus, and others. However, in 2019 the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced that as a part of their major contract with ESPN, all subsequent PPV matches would be available for sale only to the registered users of the network’s streaming service ESPN+. The deal in question covers the US media market.
UFC Fight Pass
Proof of the large scale of UFC activities is the fact that the promotion has its own subscription-based video streaming service called UFC Fight Pass. At the time of writing, subscription fees are $9.99 for a monthly pass and $95.99 for an annual pass. Those who subscribe get access to multiple UFC events, the UFC Fight Library, live martial arts events, and some exclusive fighting series and shows. We should emphasize that PPV events show up on the service at least one month after their original live broadcast.
UFC Fight Pass is a very good option for diehard MMA enthusiasts as it is bursting at the seams with historical content for a reasonable price. The library comprises thousands of past events, not only by the UFC but also from PRIDE FC, WEC, Strikeforce, Affliction, Invicta FC, King of the Cage, etc. Users can also watch behind-the-scenes shows, documentaries, storytelling, and others. As regards UFC PPV events, only Early Prelims are available for live streaming.
UFC Fight Nights
Despite the attractiveness of the numbered UFC events, over time it turned out that they are not enough to satisfy the unceasing interest of MMA fans and sports betting devotees. What is more, apart from the top-ranked stars, there were many other fighters looking for their place in the sun, needing a platform for performance and a chance to be spotted. Because of this and the resulting economic benefits, the Ultimate Fighting Championship began conducting UFC Fight Nights in 2005. These were the first fighting events not falling within the PPV system.
Although UFC Fight Nights are referred to as the lower-tier part of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, they should not be depreciated, because they often involve exciting battles between very talented, though not so famous fighters. Fight Nights have established themselves as a fundamental event, useful for building the name of a fighter, both in terms of fans and the management body of the promotional company. Participating in Fight Nights gives inexperienced fighters time to build confidence. The UFC marketing team monitors how combatants’ personalities are perceived by the audience, and at the right time pulls out a fighter they think will fit into a PPV show.
Initially, UFC Fight Nights were broadcasted by Spike, then passed through FX and Fox Sports before ending up in ESPN as part of the above-mentioned major deal. In the eyes of many MMA fans, Fight Nights resemble a reality show that kicks off the career of future UFC superstars. And as we all know, there is a huge interest in reality shows worldwide with UFC Fight Nights making no exception.
How UFC Fighters Get Paid
Top fighters from the UFC demonstrate a fairly high standard of living and this inevitably arouses the curiosity of their fans. What everyone knows (or at least thinks so) is that for every battle in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, fighters get thousands of dollars. However, there is hardly a top athlete in the world who earns a living only via the official remuneration from sporting events. We can’t help but notice that UFC fighters are particularly reluctant to share information about their contracts and exact payment conditions.
The starting point is each fighter’s contract which determines a fixed amount per battle for a certain number of matches for a particular period of time. In the past, this was the main source of income but things have dramatically changed over the last decade.
As regards nowadays UFC matches, fighters can benefit from several lucrative bonuses (UFC Bonus Awards). Fight of the Night bonus is awarded to the two fighters who have participated in the most attractive battle on the card. There are no fixed criteria, bonus holders are informally determined and announced during the post-event press conference. On March 26, 2022, the UFC held its first complete post-pandemic event where each of Matt Brown and Bryan Barberena earned a $50,000 bonus for the impressive spectacle that delighted the action-hungry audience. Performance of the Night bonus was introduced in 2014 to replace the previously existing Knockout of the Night and Submission of the Night awards. The bonus amount is again $50,000.
Top-tier fighters have huge follower bases across social networks and this makes them particularly suitable for a wide variety of brands that offer them enticing advertising contracts. Some fighters are so successful in this relation that their off-octagon income far surpasses the amounts coming from regular paychecks. The higher the popularity of the combatant, the greater these amounts become, and very often titles won in the last year do not matter. You didn’t think McGregor wouldn’t show up again in our article on UFC betting, did you? His business acumen puts him in the lead in terms of money earned during 2021, although he lost from Dustin Poirier two times, on January 24th (UFC 257) and July 11th (UFC 264).
Both Numbered UFC Events and UFC Fight Nights provide online punters with a variety of multiform betting markets. Bets are more often placed on the lower-ranked Fight Nights simply due to their higher frequency – about once a week. Championship fights, on the other hand, are conducted usually no less than once per month. Keep your finger on the pulse of the MMA calendar since the upcoming seasons promise to be more thrilling than ever with new proposals coming from the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the other promoter companies. If you want to make sure you know all types of MMA bets, move on to the next article in our guide.