In all combat sports, their are the professional fighters at the top of their game who regularly make the headlines and we often hear of their huge earnings in the media. However, in reality for a fighter to make millions of pounds for a fight is quite unlikely, as some professional fighters can earn as little as hundreds of pounds per fight.
So, how can a fighter make more money?
As sad as it sounds, in boxing and other combat sports it is about selling yourself to grow a bigger audience. The bigger the audience, the better it is for the promoter and potential sponsors and a fighter should organically generate more money. We have recently seen a great example of this with Floyd Mayweather vs Logan Paul.
Logan Paul has only had one previous professional boxing fight, but with over 23 million Youtube subscribers and 15 million Facebook followers, the Internet sensation has just had the opportunity to fight Money Mayweather in a exhibition bout making millions of dollars himself. Mayweather accepted this fight for the simple fact, of money. Mayweather’s boxing legacy is complete now, with a record of 50-0, he has nothing to prove and the only thing what will get him out of bed is a 100 million dollar paycheck. Mayweather knows he could of fought anyone, but Logan Paul has the huge audience to make the fight sell, he also suggests it is a bit of fun too.
Logan Paul’s brother Jake is going to be fighting UFC World title holder Tyron Woodley and he admitted the bout against the social media star Jake Paul would generate his biggest purse to date, despite winning a world title in the UFC and defending it on four occasions after that. These types of exhibition fights are a great indication that unfortunately the audience of a fighter can outweigh the skill, especially when it comes to getting the big pay day.
Boxing has always been the most popular combat sport, but it has become even more popular over the last five years, with many top level boxers making big money, so many kickboxers have transitioned over to boxing in hope for fame and fortune. The same thing happened in MMA over 10 years ago when MMA was on the rise, fighters jumped on the bandwagon and started to step in to the octagon instead.
However, the number of fighters which are earning millions are few and far between, as even the professional fighters purse can vary so much and a lot of that depends on their popularity. If you take Tyson Fury when he beat the reigning champion Klitschko, people either loved or hated him and he was earning a lot less compared to when he came back after his ban and turned his life around after battling depression. Fury is now earning much more money as he is much more sell-able to the fans and his social media accounts have spiked dramatically.
In kickboxing and MMA, the audience factor is not as much of an issue to boxing as once a fighter has climbed the ranks, they get signed by promotions like Glory Kickboxing or UFC who pay a contractual yearly fee and will only fight other people in that organisation.
Boxing is a little bit different as it doesn’t have a league or promotion which all the top boxers are signed too, so unless they have their own management to arrange their fights, each fighter needs to promote themselves in order for a promoter to want to sign them for a fight. Also, in boxing their is no single governing body which controls the sport globally to ensure the correct fights are made, so promoters do the match making themselves.
A promoters job is essentially to make money, but also to make exciting fights for the fans. They will generally use fighters that will sell the most PPV or tickets to guarantee a return on their investment, so they choose fighters who have the larger audiences. Like most athletes, a fighters career is relatively short compared to other professions, so it is important they can earn as much as possible while they are at their peak.
So, is it more important to have a larger fan base rather than skill?
No, not at all. A fighter with a large fan base, but lacking in skill, it will only take them so far and it is the skill that will get them to the top or a champion of the sport. However, with the social media stars and youtubers making waves in combat sports, it is an indication that the social world we now live in, it is important to have a large fan base to open new doors and get better opportunities.
A fighter who has a larger fan base will definitely be more appealing to a promoter and you could potentially negotiate more money or get a better commission deal on ticket sales. As a fighter progresses and gets higher ranked in the sport, they will naturally grow a bigger fan base as they will be travelling around and will be seen at different fight shows, but if a fighter leveraged their fan base themselves, they will soon be getting contacted by the bigger promotions and who knows, you may even get called out by Floyd Mayweather.
How a fighter can grow their audience
If you look at the legends of the sport, it is generally the charismatic fighters who are recognised both inside and out of the ring who become the most successful. However, as crazy as it sounds, fighters that are even disliked can still do extremely well, if they can still make people want to watch them fight, but they will need to back up their attitude in the ring.
To grow your audience it is a good idea to sign up to many social media accounts and consistently post engaging content. It is important to be creative and make videos so people can get to know your personality. Also, staying active and regularly fighting will certainly get you noticed, especially for a potential sponsor or endorsement deal.
- YouTube – Even if you are not yet fighting on the biggest shows, you can still have your own YouTube channels to showcase all your fights, training regimes, interviews and your general life. This will give the viewers an insight to your personality and you could end up getting millions of subscribers like Jake and Logan Paul. It is suggested that the Paul brothers have earned a staggering combined income of 24 million dollars. This in itself will make promoters want you to fight on their show as you will get lots of views and indirectly, help promote their show.
- Facebook – Open an account as a page, as a page can have unlimited fans, whereas a profile account can only have 5 thousand friends. However, use your profile to leverage your page amongst your friends. Also, be consistent with your posting and network with other people in the combat sports industry by commenting and liking their posts.
- Instagram – Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media websites with billions of active users. Upload high quality images regularly with a creative headline and hashtag to make your account stand out. As Instagram is part of the Facebook group you can synchronise both accounts.
- Professional Website – By getting a professionally designed website you can showcase all of your photos, videos, achievements and contact details under one roof. You can write interesting articles about all your highs and lows of being a fighter and achievements in martial arts. This extra content could easily rank well on Google, which will potentially get you more fans. Read our article ‘Why fighters should blog in 2021’ here.
Sproutsocial.com suggests setting goals for your audience growth on social media is a good way to stay on top of your progress. That way if you’re behind your goals, you can focus on ramping up your efforts and getting more followers. On the other side, if you notice an uptick or spike, you can go back and analyze what you did for the month that led to the increase.
Sponsorship and Endorsements
It can be quite frustrating for a fighter as promoters may not to pay enough from the purse alone to live a substantial life, so fighters may look for sponsorship deals and endorsements as a way of earning extra money. It makes perfect sense for a fighter to get a sponsorship deal as they will already be training regularly and all they might need to do is just wear a certain brand of apparel or a particular pair of boxing gloves.
However, the financial amount a fighter might receive may be determined from their fan base and might not necessarily be what they are worth. This is another reason to grow a bigger fan base and reach a wider audience, it won’t just benefit a promoter, but potential sponsors too and this will give a fighter a better opportunity to earn more themselves.
A fighter can generally have as many sponsors or endorsements as they like as long as none are conflicting. For instance, a fighter cannot promote two different brands of boxing gloves. However, it is better to have only a selected few of sponsors who are willing to pay more, rather than loads of small paying or non relevant companies, this will prevent the credibility of each not to be diluted. This is why it is also important for a fighter to look for the right companies which they can target their correct market, then it is likely to work for both parties for a long term relationship.
As mentioned earlier, the bigger the audience of a fighter the better, as it will help land a bigger sponsorship deal. If you take Anthony Joshua, he endorses big corporate companies like Jaguar Land Rover, Lynx, Lucozade and recently Google, not just because of his level in the sport, but also as he has millions of fans. These corporate companies are not necessarily directly relative to boxing, but they want to work with Joshua because of his credibility as an athlete and he is an influencer to his fans.
What is the difference between sponsorship and endorsement?
The difference between sponsorship and endorsement is a sponsorship deal may not necessarily require a fighter to endorse a particular product. For example if the sponsor is a building company, they may just be happy to see their logo on a fighters t-shirt and being promoted on social media. An endorsement is when a company will give a fighter or athlete their products to use and the fighter will publicly give their seal of approval.
How to get a sponsorship deal
From amateurs to pros, we frequently get emails from fighters at all levels of their training and we do our very best to reply and give helpful advice. The best bit of advice that we can give when approaching a company for sponsorship is to research the company first. You must have a clear understanding of what you want and what you can bring to them too. This is because a sponsorship is a deal that has to be mutual for both parties. Learn more how to seek for sponsorship here.
Start by growing your social media accounts and be creative and original with your content. Put all your details in a professional email including links to your social profiles, published fight videos and attach any achievements you may have in the sport.
Tip: Try contacting the companies of the brands you already use, as you are naturally endorsing their products and this will go a long way in the companies eyes.
The main factors we look for in a fighter are:
- The fighters level- The fighter needs to of a high professional standard and fighting on credible sanctioned promotions. The fighter doesn’t necessary need to win every fight, but a good record is quite important. Also, they should be exciting to watch as everyone remembers an action-packed fight. With exciting fights comes more exposure.
- Personality- The fighter needs to represent themselves well and endorse a brand professionally. They should be a good spokesperson to represent our company. As a sponsored fighter, you are also assuming the role of a brand ambassador. Prove that you can positively promote a brand by promoting yourself and building a solid following. Their image also needs to fit with the target audience we would be looking to appeal to.
- Audience and Fans – They will need a big enough fan base to get the brand or products seen to a wide audience.
It is important once you have signed a sponsorship deal you keep active with promoting the brand as when the contract is due to expire, the company should be more than happy to renew the sponsorship.
How much does a sponsor pay?
That all depends on a few factors of a fighter to what they get paid. Some fighters may earn an extra £1000 for a single fight, which is considered a reasonable amount of money in comparison to their fight purse. We suggest £1000 as an example as this is a sum we have often paid fighters for a single bout in both MMA and Kickboxing. However, it is better to sign up fighters to yearly contracts as it is more beneficial for both, the fighter will receive a regular income and the sponsor will get constant exposure.
To become a fighter the most important thing is to enjoy it. Try not to over stress on being rich and focus on your skill as the money should naturally come. However, if you are looking to make it as a superstar, you will need to put yourself out there and build a huge fan base. Even Conor McGregor had to start somewhere, fighting on local events before progressing to Cage Warriors, to then being signed by the UFC.