As a fight fan, have you ever watched a fight between two young lions and just knew you are witnessing the emergence of the next great superstar?
When I think of this type of situation, I reflect on a singular moment in our sports’ history – the Griffin-Bonnar finale to conclude the first Ultimate Fighter. That barnburner of a match saw two relatively unknown fighters slug it out for fifteen minutes for a shot at a UFC contract. As Al Pacino so eloquently expressed in the greatest inspirational speech of all time, and with nothing short of pure grit and desire, these two guys literally tore themselves and everyone around them (each other) to pieces for that extra inch in the cage that night.
“I’ll tell you this, in any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die for that inch that’s gonna win that inch. … And I know, if I’m ever gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch.”
– Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday
We all know what happens next. When our future selves look back at Bonnar and Griffin’s epic battle, what they watch will be the most pivotal moment that catapulted this young sport to prominence. That night, a Chicago Golden Gloves boxer and an Athens, GA Police Officer literally became the Bill & Ted of MMA.
Unfortunately, not every promising young fighter will get their Griffin/Bonnar moment.
Put yourself in the shoes of an up-and-coming fighter here. You believe that if you work hard enough, one day soon you too will be in the big leagues like Griffin and Bonnar. Looking deep within your own heart, you feel nothing short of pure passion for fighting and everything that comes with it. All else becomes secondary to you. From the girls you date to the part-time jobs you take, every aspect of your life revolves around your goals as a fighter.
You’re in the gym at least twenty hours a week, maybe more if you count time there outside of your own training. You’re literally shedding blood, sweat, and tears training and loving it. From Boxing and wrestling to everything in between, you hope that if you train hard enough, your fighting career can make you enough money for you to subsist and make a respectable living.
So how are you going to make it as a fighter?
To answer this question seriously, one has to consider the different avenues in which a fighter can generate income.
- Fight purses earned through showing for and winning professional bouts.
- Sponsorship dollars via businesses looking for exposure in an emerging industry.
- Ancillary income as a result of training others, through class schedules at their gym, private lessons, and seminars.
- Part-time or full-time employment unrelated to MMA or attending school in preparation to enter the traditional workforce.
With a rigorous training schedule, personal/family obligations, and an understandable focus on the next fight, whenever it may be, coming up with a comprehensive marketing strategy to supplement one’s fight career can be quite a daunting task for every young athlete, especially one looking to get the next level.
In the next part of this series, we’ll discuss all the aforementioned issues and fighter representation with one of the more visible supporters of up-and-coming young fighters here in the Houston area.