Pay-per-view or PPV is a type of television or webcasting service through which buyers can view live events from any location through the internet. PPV has become a major factor in the growing popularity of combat sports. It's often a topic of discussion and at the center of many debates regarding UFC fighter pay.
So, what are PPV points and how do they work in terms of UFC fighter pay? Let's take a look.
PPV points have been affecting UFC fighter pay for a long time, massively changing the salaries given to the athletes. Pay-per-view points are not included in the athletes' base salary, winning bonus, performance bonuses or locker room payments. Regardless, it often skyrockets fighters' take-home salaries.
Revealing details about the UFC's payment system involving PPV points were released at the time of the framing of UFC Antitrust Law. A report prepared in a 2020 lawsuit by an expert witness for the plaintiffs, Hal J. Singer, was released on a podcast by MMAPayout and Bloody Elbow. The report detailed the UFC's payment system for their fighters based on the sale of pay-per-views for the events they were appearing in.
It's a well-established fact that UFC champions and superstars earn a percentage of the pay-per-view tickets their fights sell, also known as PPV points. However, information on how exactly the PPV points affect UFC fighter pay is not well documented
The role of PPV points in determining UFC fighter pay
In the report released by Hal Singer, an example model is shared which reveals that fighters receive $1 for every PPV ticket sold between 200,000 and 400,000. UFC fighter pay is hence determined by how many PPV tickets they sell.
The model further states that the amount per PPV ticket goes up to $2 if there are between 400,000 and 600,000 pay-per-views sold. For pay-per-views sold above the 600,000 threshold, UFC fighters get $2.50 for each ticket.
However, the math is not strictly followed every single time and for every single fighter, apparently. The report reveals that Holly Holm was denied a PPV points share when she challenged Ronda Rousey for the women's bantamweight title at UFC 193. UFC president Dana White was quoted in the report as stating-
"For the PPV bonus she (Holly Holm) must be defending (a championship)."
UFC 193 sold 1.1 million pay-per-views and while Ronday Rousey was paid around $1.5m for losing, Holly Holm took home $330,000 (including base salary of $100,000, win bonus of $100,000, performance of the night and knockout of the night bonus at $50,000 each, and endorsements worth $30,000).
Curiously, there hasn't been a concrete rule in the UFC vis-a-vis the PPV points' share in the UFC's fighter pay structure. In the fight between Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz at UFC 183 in 2015, both fighters were given salaries including a pay-per-view points share. However, neither were defending a belt.
Despite that, the UFC found Silva and Diaz eligible for pay-per-view points because they were both former champions and superstars. 'The Spider' was a former UFC champion while Nick Diaz was a former WEC and Strikeforce champion.
UFC 229 sold 2.4 million pay-per-view tickets, and the discoled salaries for Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor were $2m and $3m, respectively. However, 'The Notorious' took home an estimated $50m. Now this fails the logic used in the 'example model' revealed in the aforementioned report, and that is the point.
As revealed in Singer's report, the UFC doesn't follow a clear-cut model when it comes to PPV points and UFC fighter pay. The report stated-
"A small number of top-tier fighters receive compensation based on PPV purchases. These fighters typically receive a flat amount of money per PPV ticket sale, which may increase in discrete increments as the total number of tickets sold grows. Record evidence indicates that Zuffa generally offered PPV royalties only to defending champions (as opposed to challengers), and sometimes to former champions."
UFC 202 sold around 1,650,000 pay-per-view tickets in 2016, for which Conor McGregor made $3m as base salary and an additional $3.1m as his share of the fight's PPV points.
In the end, it's not entirely clear how often the pay model, which allows fighters to take home a share of their PPV points, is used by the UFC. While basic logic is followed by the MMA organization in determining UFC fighter pay after factoring in PPV points, it's often a bit arbitrary.