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Welcome to another edition of "Ask MMATorch," where Torch Editor Jamie Penick and Torch Columnist Rich Hansen answer reader questions on the world of MMA. If you have a question you'd like addressed by either of them, make sure to send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org. The more questions we receive, the more frequently we can run this feature!
Ryan F. Writes: Do you think that heavier fighters are discriminated against on the pound for pound list? I'm a big JDS fan and it took me a while to give Cain Velasquez the respect he deserves, but I feel he still hasn't earned it on that list. He's technical, finishes fights, dominates every opponent, and there are close to no challengers left for him. The list is just for fun but do you feel he's deserving of a higher spot?
MMATorch Columnist Rich Hansen Answers: Just to get this out of the way, the question is impossible to answer. Both literally and literally figuratively impossible to answer. for as many people there are who have pound for pound lists, there are that many definitions of what pound for pound means. But to narrow it down to the most convenient terms possible, three are two basic camps; who would win in a fight if two fighters weighed the same, and who has the better resume (i.e., history of dominance) in their own weight class. Most people who put together pound for pound lists would use both of those constraints, on a sliding scale. When I do my list, I go big time on the latter. To me, P4P is a subjective listing of the fighters who are most dominant in their own weight class, but I do believe that one of my subliminal tiebreakers is to side with the smaller fighter. The reason being, if Cain Velasquez fought Demetrious Johnson ten times, who would win more fights? the answer, of course, is Cain Velasquez, who would win the series 1 to 0 (as Johnson would be dead after the first fight in the series, he would not be alive to compete nine more times).
MMATorch Editor Jamie Penick Answers: I think there's certainly some discrimination inherent in the pound for pound list. Those in lower weight classes, especially those who seem to have an ability to fight in numerous weight classes, will get more recognition on the pound for pound list strictly because they have more room they can explore in the MMA space. The problem guys like Cain Velasquez face is that the heavyweight division itself is extremely thin, so the completely subjective nature of a pound for pound argument means that it's easy to question whether or not they'd be successful without the weight and strength that come with being a 240+ behemoth. It shifts to a question of whose skills do you think translate the best in any division if the weight/strength issue is all equal. It's about the technical abilities of those fighters, I think, and in general the heavyweight division is - fairly or not - seen as less of a technical division with a lot more reliance on size, strength, and power. Take some of that away, and people simply see higher skill-level in fighters in the classes below.
Tanar D. Writes: Okay, I'll play the chauvinistic male here: For female fighters, does the UFC do a pre-fight pregnancy test along with any drug screening they do? If a fighter was found to be pregnant, would they be allowed to compete? Maybe not the most enlightened question, but my curiosity is overwhelming my tact.
MMATorch Columnist Rich Hansen Answers: There's nothing wrong with the question, but your understanding on the UFC's role is off a little bit here. Female fighters undergo a full medical exam, just as male fighters do, and a pregnancy could certainly be revealed as part of the physical exam. However, the UFC doesn't do these tests. It's all done as part of the licensing process from each state's athletic commission. No commission on earth would allow a pregnant woman to compete, and no woman on earth would consider competing while pregnant.
Steve M. Writes: I saw the payroll figures for February's UFC 170 and it left me a bit bemused to see that Ronda Rousey's payroll was $110,000, and yet Rory Macdonald was only $10,000 less at $100,000 and Daniel Cormier's was a whopping $160,000, $50,000 more than Rousey.
I understand that across the board in general in sports, men tend to be paid more than women do, but I don't get these payroll amounts at all. Rousey was in the main event, headlining, and I honestly believe her fight and Rousey herself will have brought in more buys than Cormier. It was a title fight to begin with, so right there is more interest, and the way that Rousey has been negatively portrayed of late, plus the way she loves to play the heel, heaps of people that hate her will have been tuning in in the hope of seeing her lose and get to be made to shut up. Others, like myself, would have tuned in to see how she has evolved and improved from her last fight. So why did Cormier get such a larger payout? It's not like he's Silva or GSP, he was fighting a nobody, no real excitement about the fight to make people want to see it. Rousey was the star, it just seems incredibly old fashioned the way the payroll figures went.
MMATorch Columnist Rich Hansen Answers: First off, you have to throw out all top-level male fighters who are in the UFC on Strikeforce contracts. Period. Their contracts were so out of whack with the UFC pay scale at the time they were signed that they throw off the curve drastically.
Now, with that said, Ronda Rousey ain't exactly hurting for scratch. She doesn't need the CEO of Ashley Home Furniture to buy her a new couch like he did for Liz Carmouche, capisce? Rousey's contract might seem low right now, but wait to see what her next UFC contracts her. Once she says, "You know, I've been offered the lead in Saw 13, and they're going to offer me $7,000,000 for six weeks of work, her contract will be elevated ever so slightly. And Zuffa, being as smart as they are, will structure the contract in such a manner that her "official" salary will be far far far far far far far far far far far far far far less than her actual pay. Why? Because if word leaks on how much she actually gets paid, then that will set a new precedent and a new starting point for every other fighter's contract negotiations.
Look at it this way: How can there be as many millionaire fighters as Zuffa claims there are if almost none of them make more than $200,000 (before taxes, camp fees, etc) per fight? the state commissions release the disclosed salaries, because Zuffa pays the commission, the commission pays the fighters, and that's all public record. There's a lot of money flowing from Zuffa to the top fighters that the commission has nothing to do with. This keeps the top fighters satisfied, and it keeps Zuffa satisfied in as much as they can show the mid-level fighters who are in near-poverty that, "Hey. Even our best fighters are making barely more than you are, so suck it up, Bitch." (editor's note: not a direct quote).
In short, when it comes to the star fighters, don't believe for a moment that the salary that the commission discloses is the total amount of money the fighter is being paid.
MMATorch Editor Jamie Penick Answers: This is the issue with the "disclosed" payroll that is released via the athletic commissions. It's certainly the minimum amount of money contracted to any fighter, and when it comes to the low end of the payscale, oftentimes it can be the end all be all of what they're getting paid. Occasionally on that end there are locker room bonuses that the UFC will send out based on performance, but it's certainly arbitrary and not necessarily common for all fighters at that level.
So on the low end, you can look at those figures and get a good idea of what those fighters are making. Head to the top end, though, and it's a different ballgame entirely. Not only are there pay-per-view points in play for the top headliners, but those undisclosed "locker room" bonuses can be more lucrative and more frequent than those given to fighters on the undercard.
As far as Rousey herself, Dana White is on record saying she's making millions a fight, and that in just three fights in the UFC she's already amongst their top 10 highest paid fighters ever. Suffice it to say, whatever those disclosed earnings show, it's not the end of what Rousey's making in the UFC.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
STAFF COLUMNISTS: Shawn Ennis - Jason Amadi
Frank Hyden - Rich Hansen
Chris Park - Matt Pelkey
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