UFC event award changes will increase bonus money for fighters

Elias Cepeda

UFC fighters will no longer be able to compete for submission of the night and knockout of the night bonuses but will be eligible to earn millions more in bonus money, collectively, this year thanks to an increase in events and changes in the bonus structure instituted this week by the organization. For years, MMA’s top promotion has awarded bonus checks to fighters who competed well enough to earn fight of the night, submission of the night and KO of the night honors after each event.

Beginning with this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 36 event in Brazil, the UFC will replace KO and submission of the night awards with two separate “performance of the night” bonuses. Fight of the night honors will remain unchanged.

The bonus checks for all four awards will remain $50,000 each. In 2013, there were 35 UFC events, making approximately $7 million in potential bonuses available to fighters.

In 2014, there will be 49 UFC events. The increase in events combined with the bonus structure changes will guarantee that $9.8 million is awarded to fighters in “of the night” bonuses.

In the past, two fighters always won bonuses for fight of the night but there was no guarantee that KO and submission of the night bonuses would be handed out since it is always possible that no knockouts or submissions would take place on any given card.

Immediate reaction from fighters to the bonus structure changes is mixed but optimistic. Featherweight Cole Miller is tied for third most submission of the night awards, all time, and is coming off his most recent one last month at UFC Fight Night 35.

“Magrinho” says he’ll have to wait and see what “performance of the night” ends up meaning but is worried that finishing fights will be undervalued.

“I will have to learn more about what, exactly, will constitute ‘performance of the night,’ but I don’t like the sound of it too much, hearing about it for the first time now,” he told Yahoo Sports! Tuesday night.

“I don’t know if it will be this way but it sounds like it might take away an emphasis from finishing fights. I know the UFC wants us to finish fights - that’s why they always had a KO and Submission of the night award. Finishing fights is what MMA is about, in my opinion. But, like I said, I’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.”

The all-time submission of the night award winner, Joe Lauzon, told Yahoo Sports Wednesday morning that he believes the bonus structure changes will give the UFC more flexibility to give awards.

“I don’t think it’s a huge, huge change. It might just gives the UFC more flexibility,” Lauzon said.

“There have definitely been times when there was just one submission on a card and it was kind of lackluster but there were two awesome KO’s. I don’t think it’s a huge deal but it does sucks a little bit.

“Part of it is getting away from the politically correct thing where critics can say to the UFC, ‘Oh, you pay guys more to concuss other guys. There’s probably a little bit of that concern behind the decision, as the sport gets more popular. It’s the fight game, though, and that’s what we signed up for but sometimes you sugarcoat things.”

Lauzon, of course, has produced his share of KO’s and fights of the night in addition to submissions. He’s also not upset that it now appears that he’s guaranteed to stay the top submission of the night award-getter.

“It’s not a huge deal at all,” he maintained.

“And the bright side is that it locks me in as the all-time submission of the night leader [laughs].”

UFC president Dana White says that the decision to change the bonus structure was all about guaranteeing the fighters more bonus money.

“We wanted to make sure that every cent of it got into the hands of the fighters. Sometimes, there wasn’t a knockout or there wasn’t a submission and then all of the money wouldn’t be awarded,” he explained to Yahoo! Sports.

“I know our guys always deliver. We in the business part of this thing do all the bells and whistles and set all of it up, but the UFC at the end of the day comes down to our guys putting on great fights. And so this way, we’ll make sure the money is given out and we’ll be able to reward guys who maybe didn’t get a finish but still put on a great show.”

Kevin Iole also contributed to this story.

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