Ask Ant: The Finances of Fisticuffs Edition

By Anthony Walker Aug 19, 2019

Frank McEdgar: What is Nate Diaz's motivation for coming back? What do you guys think kept him out so long?

The simple answer to Nate Diaz’s motivation for coming back is money. He is one of the few real stars on the UFC roster and his presence makes people reach for their credit cards. At the open workouts for UFC 241 (which I attended in person) Diaz received the biggest ovation from the crowd and it wasn’t even close. This was after three champions with better resumes graced the stage first.

Without knowing just yet what his disclosed payday is for Saturday, it’s certainly a very nice check. It’s safe to assume it’s the type of check to get most people out of bed and go to work with a smile. Diaz will undoubtedly be happy to see that direct deposit. Even though the pay-per-view market isn’t like it was at UFC 202 when we last saw him compete, it’s safe to assume that some extra padding will be added to that figure as well.

But make no mistake, it doesn’t seem like Diaz is just desperately seeking the next lump of cash. While he did make a great deal of money from the Conor McGregor fights, both of which account for all time high pay-per-view buyrates, he seems to be doing just fine with his outside of the cage income streams. Heavily invested in cannabis, he hasn’t had to sustain a single blow to the head to get his bills paid in the three years since he last fought.

Let’s not take for granted that Diaz is a genuine fighter. He enjoys combat and the lifestyle surrounding it. As a true competitor, it has to be hard to sit out and watch everything carry on. Adding to the frustration, his scheduled opponent for UFC 230, Dustin Poirier, withdrew from their bout and ended up with an interim title shot.

During his media scrum following the open workouts, he also expressed disappointment in the rest of the roster for not using his “blueprint” for success in navigating the delicate balance of martial arts and promotion. He probably just wants to get back in the chaos and legally hit people again.

As far as what kept him away, I’m sure there are multiple answers. He did confirm that he was offered a welterweight title shot against then champion Tyron Woodley, but the money and short-notice call didn’t seem right to him. There is probably a similar story with every bout that was proposed during his layoff, and of course there was the aforementioned injury withdrawal by Poirier.

Diaz making his return against Anthony Pettis is likely the product of a perfect storm. Diaz felt like fighting and the UFC was willing to loosen up the purse strings. Additionally, he is very complimentary of Pettis’ fight style and finds the matchup interesting. The right name for the right money seem to be the winning formula.

Nostradumbass: Mike Perry just got a bonus of $50,000, how is he broke? He lives in Florida, a cheap place to live compared to other states, how could he have six bucks?

Mike Perry only has $6 to his name for a variety of reasons. First, there probably was some poor financial planning involved. Without having any inside information into his daily life or spending habits, having an Instagram post driving a Ferrari and insisting it wasn’t a sponsored post is not a good sign.

But this is a sad reminder that the fighters who sacrifice their limbs, brain health -- and their nasal structure in Perry’s case -- are often not swimming in money. Unless you’re among the top names, there isn’t a lot of money being made. Perry says he made $58,000 to show with a healthy amount taken out in Uruguayan taxes and management fees. He is behind on taxes owed to the American government as well.

As with most fighters, Perry boarded that plane to South America completely confident that he’d make show money along with the win bonus. While he did get the extra $50,000 Performance Bonus, that wasn’t money that was guaranteed.

It’s very easy to envision a 27-year-old with a fair amount of fame, getting a bigger lump sum of money then he’s seen before and enjoying himself a bit too much. There are a lot of stories like that in professional sports. And without the well-established player’s associations and structure that stick-and-ball athletes enjoy, fighters don’t have that thin layer of safety to protect them from the trappings of a fast lifestyle.

Hopefully Perry learns the right lessons. Proper investments, paying attention to taxes and monetizing his popular brand can save him from a sad but unfortunately common story. Considering that his insane nose injury will likely haunt his fighting future and possibly his life outside of the cage, it’s unfortunately he doesn’t have more to show for it.

aerozeppelin: How prevalent do you think fight fixing is in mma?

While there are some documented cases or highly suspicious fights that have some sort of scripted nature to them, I don’t think it’s a very prevalent problem on the highest levels of MMA. For the big promotions there are simply too many people watching and too much oversight to fool people.

One thing that MMA has done for the average person, even if they aren’t a frequent viewer, is alter our sense of what a real fight looks like. That’s why action movie scenes don’t look the same anymore. Classic kung fu flick-style choreography seems off after watching thousands of mixed rules bouts. The fight scenes that we do enjoy are clearly influenced by actual combat sports that have been proven to be effective in real situations. Even then, there’s a significant disconnect and lowered expectations. So watching a scripted bout looks different and lacks the liveliness of an actual fight.

Watch noted con artist and convicted murderer Rafiel Torre in his lone match in King of the Cage against Ioka Tianuu. It’s terrible and clearly a work. Even without any real expertise in grappling, it’s very easy to point out the two are clearly not actually fighting and no real submission attempt “forced” Tianuu to tap out. That’s what a fixed fight looks like.

On the lower levels, especially in regions without any third parties overseeing the events, it’s much more possible to artificially influence results. On the higher levels, any fixes would have to be behind the scenes. Suspect matchmaking, inconsistent drug testing, and some sort of individual sabotage -- purposely food poisoning a fighter for example -- would have to replace running through a set outcome. There are simply too many variables to consider.


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