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Is amateur MMA just a sleazy way for promoters to not pay fighters?

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According to a March 5 post from Bluegrass MMA, several amateur MMA events have been scrapped in recent weeks due to fighters dropping out of their scheduled bouts.

In response, some Ohio-based promoters have taken to social media to call out such fighters for lacking the heart to compete.

"No one really wants to fight anymore they want to talk about fighting, post on FB about fighting but the majority never sign contracts or come up with some grade school excuse for why they suddenly can’t fight two weeks out," said Mike Patt, owner of Dayton MMA. "This goes for both pros and amateurs. Hence there aren’t enough bouts to put on a show. So the minority of real fighters can’t get bouts in because the wannabes lack the balls to really fight.”

Does Patt made a good argument about fighters lacking the "cohones" to want to fight, or is it just such combatants don't see the value in harming their body and mind without receiving compensation for their work?

All it takes is one look at pro organizations such as the UFC or Bellator to see that there's no real truth to Patt's argument about fighters dropping out of fights due to a lack of heart.

Rarely, if ever, do fighters drop off UFC or Bellator cards, for the simple reason that there is money involved. Obviously it's a game-changer when a fighter is to receive a paycheck for their fight, as opposed to being asked to work for free.

Are they truly amateur?

Bluegrass MMA's article alluded to the fact that amateur fighters are dropping off cards due to financial reasons, specifically pre-fight blood work that costs in the range of 60 to 100 dollars.

Besides that cost, most states require amateur fighters to pay registration fees of 100 dollars or more, along with the cost of a physical. In most cases, an amateur MMA fighter shells out over $200 in such fees before they are allowed to fight.

Tack on equipment costs such as gloves, shin guards, shorts and a mouthpiece, and the initial start-up fees before ever stepping into the cage is typically at least $500.

Generally, fighters also train for several months before ever testing their skills in an actual amateur MMA fight.

With MMA gyms charging approximately $150 a month, an aspiring MMA fighter who trains for six months before taking their first fight will have spent approximately $900 on gym fees before the fight.

So between pre-fight blood work, registration, equipment and gym fees, the average amateur MMA fighter will have shelled out approximately $1,500 before ever stepping into the cage for their first fight.

Amateur fighters shelling out big money isn't necessarily reason why promotions should pay them off the bat, but it does take away some of the "amateur" aspect from their efforts.

A real amateur league of amateur athletes would be something like a bunch of guys in their late-40s meeting up for a recreational game of softball after work, or high school basketball players competing in an exhibition in a school gym.

Once admission is being charged, and promoters start raking in money from ticket sales and endorsements, the true amateur nature of it all is lost.

A flawed system

The amateur MMA system is flawed because fighters calling themselves "pro" is a personal decision that has nothing to do with age or experience level.

In most states, a fighter can turn pro whenever they want. The only difference between pro and amateur is that pros get paid and amateurs do not.

For example, a 33-year-old with six fights under her belt could consider herself amateur, while a 21-year-old with four fights under her belt could call herself pro.

It doesn't matter how many wins one has on their record. Fighters can call themselves professional whenever they see fit.

Why are there way more amateur MMA promotions than professional ones? The simple answer is that promoters of amateur MMA shows know they can make nice profits from not having to compensate the fighters or pay for insurance.

Amateur MMA simply means that promoters are keeping every dime of the money made off of their events.

So the amateur MMA fighter who sells 50 tickets to their friends and family for $30 each sees all that money go to the promotion, while they go home with a punched face and just enough money to cover the cost of traveling to the event.

Why fighters continue to compete in amateur

The argument for fighters to compete on the amateur level is that they get experience and pride from the competition. However, they could receive the same experience and pride by considering themselves professional.

The sad truth of the matter is that there are so many fighters willing to work for free by considering themselves amateur, that promoters don't need to pay.

Amateur fighters are willing to get their faces smashed for free, just for the exposure and experience.

If such fighters don't see their value, their clients won't either.

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