The subject of equal pay for men and women has been a subject of fierce debate in many industries lately. In the sporting world, one of the types of event that has most ignited this discussion is mixed martial arts (MMA) fights.
Do female MMA fighters earn the same as their male counterparts and, if not, what can be done about it?
The Current Situation
There are some different figures available online that show the difference in pay between the genders. In 2015, the Culinary Union called out this issue and said that female fighters earned 61% of what men in the sport got. Even worse, this number dropped to 41% when Ronda Rousey was taken out of the equation.
An analysis at the time suggested that women got an average of $15,442 per fight compared to $39,088 for men. Part of the reason discovered for this was that far more of the female fighters were just starting out in their career and, therefore, weren’t yet as popular as the majority of established mail stars.
If we fast-forward to the current date, have enough female stars gained enough popularity and a strong track record to influence these numbers? Paige VanZant spoke out on the subject of wage inequality in 2019, and said that she wanted more money to “keep bleeding and sacrificing for this sport”.
This came shortly after the US women’s soccer stars took legal action over the fact that their rewards are so much lower than those available for men. Analysis of the UFC 241 event showed that the best-paid man got paid $700,000 but the highest-earning female fighter only got $30,000.
According to the latest figures in 2020, the top female earner is Amanda Nunes who earns $350,000 for a fight, plus an extra $100,000 if she wins it. Julia Budd has a total pay of $350,000 and Cris Cyborg gets $250,000.
On the other hand, Conor McGregor is estimated to have taken home around $3 million for each of his latest fights. Alistair Overeem has been earning $800,00 per fight recently.
Are Women Fighters as Skilled and Popular as Men?
One of the reasons we sometimes see given for gender inequality in sports like tennis is that men’s games are more demanding, have more sets, and are more popular with TV viewers. Whether or not you consider this a valid reason, it is worth considering how skilled and popular women in the MMA are.
UFC President Dana White once famously said that he would never let women fight in his franchise. Yet, he now admits that women fighters are “really good”. There have been plenty of instances of pay-per-view UFC events with women’s fights leading the bill.
If we look at some of the most popular female MMA fighters around, we can see that athletes like Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey are massively popular and hugely skillful.
There is no doubt that more people are tuning in to see their fights than ever before.
What Happens Next?
As female MMA fighters have become more established and their popularity has grown, their earning power has increased too. The most popular male figures still draw bigger crowds and get paid more, although the gap is closing.
However, there is still some work to be done before we can say that there is gender equality in MMA. For that to be the case, male and female athletes of equal standing and popularity would earn the same for each fight.
It seems to be on the way but there is still some time to go before we can safely say that equality has finally been achieved.
Click here to read more about the best female fighters in the business: https://extra.betamerica.com/mma/the-5-greatest-female-fighters-in-mma-history/
Bio: Robert Bell is an avid sports fan who keenly follows the financial side of the industry and enjoys writing about the most interesting issues of the moment.