There has been a great debate across MMA regarding purses for fighters. Often, fighters can earn a respectable payday while others struggle to make ends meet. With no MMA union, there hasn’t been a concrete base where athletes can control their own futures with pay.
Per Yahoo Sports, the minimum NFL salary in 2022 was $705,000, or $41,470 per game. Per Spotrac, that number has increased to $750,000. The minimum salary for someone in the MLB is $720,000. The UFC’s minimum was $12,000 per fight in 2022, with a win bonus of another $12,000.
It is not just fighter pay in the UFC that has caused debate. Bellator, ONE, and others have looked for ways to make fighters comfortable, but there will always be questions surrounding money. The PFL has looked to change that with its tournament format. Funds from business investors, including former MLB player Alex Rodriguez, have helped keep the lights on and the fighters happy.
“The PFL business is exactly what sports investors are looking for,” PFL founder and chairman Donn Davis said via Forbes. “We’ve proven to secure top athletes. We’ve proven to secure global media distribution. And we’ve proven to secure dozens of leading advertisers.”
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Here is a breakdown of a PFL fighter’s salary over the last few PFL events.
Unlike most promotions (excluding Bellator with its Grand Prix tournaments), the PFL’s entire platform is a tournament format. Fighters compete for a $1 million prize if they make it to and win the finals.
However, outside of the $1 million, fighters earn a separate paycheck. In 2019, the second season of the PFL saw Kayla Harrison win the first PFL tournament for women. MMA Fighting and The Sports Daily shared the purses of several PFL fighters leading up to the finals via the Nevada State Athletic Commission:
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Last season (2022), PFL 4, 5, and 6 took place inside Overtime Elite Arena in Georgia. MMA Junkie shared purses via the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission:
This season (2023) saw several events air once again from the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta. MMA Junkie and MMA Fighting shared purses via the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission:
Fighters have shown interest in the PFL based on the salary they will receive. Shane Burgos joined the UFC in 2016 and was 8-3 with the promotion before signing with the PFL. Speaking with Cageside Press, Burgos revealed a difference between his last fight contract and his current one.
“Aside from the million dollars to win the whole thing, my money per fight is phenomenal. I’m making way more money— it takes about four UFC fights, with the show and win money, to make what I’m making for a PFL fight,” Burgos said. “So it was almost like a no-brainer when it comes to the money. It was hard, it wasn’t an easy decision, obviously, because I did love the UFC, I loved fighting for the UFC, I loved the organization, I loved saying I was fighting for the UFC.
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“But at the end of the day, I’ve got to look at myself in the mirror, I’ve got to look at my wife in the face and my kids and tell them that this s— was worth it. The money that I’m making now, there’s no doubt that this is going to be worth it.”
Burgos made $100,000 at PFL 6 against Yamato Nishikawa ($18,000).
Recently, Jake Paul signed with the PFL. The YouTuber and boxer helped form the Super Fight division, a special weight class where fighters can earn at least 50% of the PFL’s pay-per-view revenue.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou signed with the PFL in May 2023. This is after Ngannou and the UFC went separate ways following contract negotiations that went south. Requests for health insurance, sponsorships for UFC fighters, and an advocate present for contract negotiations were denied by the UFC.
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Competing in the Super Fight division, here are the terms of Ngannou’s contract:
“You have to give a ton of credit to Francis. Most fighters couldn’t go through what he went through this past year. He understands his value and has been extremely patient to get to this point. Now, not only is he the best heavyweight in the world, but he has a deal that is unmatched and will set him up for life. I want to personally thank Donn Davis and Pete Murray for being so collaborative throughout the process and committed to pushing PFL to new heights.” said Marquel Martin, President and Co-Founder 3POINT0 Labs Inc.