“The Business Side of Fighting” is a new series that will look at the side of combat sports that many fans do not understand: The business. With so much going on in the cage or the ring it is very easy to lose sight of the action on the outside that makes it work. This series will look at everything from fighter pay, manager influence, promotional power and a hosts of other areas within the business of combat sports.
It was recently announced that Floyd Mayweather will bring in a record $41.5 million dollars for his upcoming bout against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. That number will easily pass the $32 million he made for his bout against Robert Guerrero.
What makes the situation more interesting is that Floyd has an opportunity increase this number if the Pay per View buys are high enough. If he can break the record $2.44 million in revenue that's from his 2007 bout against Oscar De La Hoya then his check for that night's work will be even bigger.
On September 14th Mayweather will face Alvarez in the second bout of his six-fight, 30-month deal with Showtime that presents him with the opportunity to make $300 million dollars over the term of the deal. In a world where professional sports seem to be driven by the almighty dollar, it's clear that Mayweather intends to keep himself in a position of power for as long as possible. The question is, how is he doing it?
Floyd is consistently ranked by Forbes Magazine as one of the richest athletes in sports. As most athletes are at work for multiple months a year, Floyd hasn't fought two or more times since 2007. Yet, he still finds a way to easily trump some of the most popular athletes in the world when it comes to the size of his yearly bank account. So what is it that Floyd has mastered that many athletes, especially those in combat sports, have yet to be able to recreate?
Mayweather has developed a model that allows him to stay in complete control of his fights. This control comes with an extreme amount of risk, but his success has helped avoid any of the back lash. Mayweather uses his own finances to front all of the money for his boxing showcases.
Mayweather Promotions, which was created after his split with Top Rank Boxing in 2006, gives Mayweather the control that he needs to stay one of the highest paid athletes in sports. His promotions groups fronts nearly everything in reference to the event: hiring promoters, paying opponents and additional logistic steps, are all taken care of by his company. The results are that Mayweather Promotions then sees all of the revenue from said event; meaning that money from the concessions, ticket sales, rights to the fight etc etc come back into Floyd's hands. From there the staff is paid out and the rest is profit for Mayweather's bank account.
Pay per View buys also factor into the amount of money that he makes during his events. This is where Mayweather's “Money” personality comes into play. His ability to promote himself into a major villain causes people to buy his events with the intention of seeing him lose, rather than cheering him to victory. This change also came into play after his split from Top Rank and has proved to be one of the more lucrative decisions he has made.
The duplication of such a deal is going to be difficult to create for boxers and combat athletes in the future. As promoters and organizations work harder to lock fighters into multi-fight deals; some athletes are apprehensive at developing such a plan due to the high amount of risk. There's the option of coming together with some of the best available fighters to work together, but that means these individuals will have to be willing to split the funds while developing a fan base to watch them compete.
Then athletes in mixed martial arts have to worry about the promotions that have the bargaining power over where they fight. The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator are the two big boys in the room and draw attention for the sport. Even within those promotions, a fighter can't really expect to make a very small fraction of the money that Floyd makes as a combat sports professional. Most are surprised when a fighter makes $1 million for a fight in the Octagon and even their earnings are forty times less than what Mayweather will make on the 14th. So what are these athletes who are looking to cash in more heartily on their talents to do?
This is where branding, self promotion and partnerships come into play. Athletes have to be willing to develop their own personality outside of what the promotion is telling the public. Three time champion Adrien Broner is an example of a fighter who is building himself up beyond what his promoter in Golden Boy is doing. When his YouTube videos or radio interviews are played and his personality comes through, that translates into more potential viewers for his fights. Which will translate into more money down the line for the 24 year old champion.
For a mixed martial artist to even begin coming close to a stronger self income they have to be willing to go to the same lengths. At the current time that is what is holding back much of the sport's growth in this area. Even the biggest names haven't found a way to brand themselves outside of the UFC's promotion.
Floyd Mayweather may be the last of a breed combat sports that were popular years ago. His ability to promote an event, create buzz that turns into financial gain, is a lost art that hasn't been recaptured. Perhaps when he retires he will have the opportunity to teach others how to implement his plan to super stardom. His continued placement on the Forbes highest paid athletes list should be more than enough encouragement for them to do so.