Fight Camp: Ignorance, Arrogance and the Almighty Dollar

Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.
–Steven Pressfield

When I began writing this fight camp series, I had to ask myself a few questions that I was somewhat uncomfortable answering. There were even a few questions I did not want to ask at all. I was reticent because their premises were conceived and fostered by a status quo: that idealism is a notion that is inapplicable in all areas of life, regardless of who you are or what you do; that the easy way is always the right way, and the hard way is not worth it, even when you are doing what you love.

Personally, I have believed those premises to be fundamentally flawed, but I still couldn’t relieve myself of these questions that bother me and that I am positive haunt fighters of all skill sets.

When does becoming a professional fighter pay off? When exactly do the benefits of devoting your life to fighting people in a cage outweigh the costs? A better question may be: Will one ever even get a chance to see those benefits that one dreams of?”

Reaping the financial rewards of hard work and dedication within the fight game in general is a hassle and the UFC is a perfect example. Even with the UFC’s acquisition of other big name promotions such as Strikeforce, Pride, and the WEC, questions have arose as to whether or not the UFC should pay their fighters more than they are being paid now.

While payday for top fighters, like Anderson Silva and George St. Pierre are up in the millions per fight, entry level fighters in the UFC who fail to win their first match have made as little as $6,000 per fight.

To put that money into perspective: If you are an entry level fighter and fight four times a year at $6,000 dollars per fight, you would just barely be over the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ poverty line for a 4 person household.

Now let’s put that into perspective. The UFC in 2005 was $44 million in debt and now is believed to be worth more than a billion dollars. If the UFC is worth over a billion dollars and can only see fit to pay some of its lower level fighters about $10,000 every six months, imagine what an organization that does not have that fiscal heft pay their fighters?

Keep in mind, while the UFC is the biggest MMA organization, it is not the only one, and there are medium sized promotions, such as Bellator, and a number of very small promotions all over the United States, as well as in many other countries. Included in those is the one in which Ricky Jackson fights. I should add that I have never asked how much Ricky makes per fight, and I never will.

Jackson's third professional fight is scheduled for August 18th in Oakland.

Another difficulty in Mixed Marital Arts particularly is that it still is a growing sport, and by default, it is experiencing all of the growing pains of a new sport. These growing pains are intensified by a general lack of business professionalism which Lori Henderson, Ricky Jackson’s manager, believes may be inhibiting the sport from growing at a faster pace than it already has.

For example, I personally know of a fighter who flew all the way from Europe to California, to fight for a big name promotion at the time, only to have the match cancelled on him last minute and not even given another opponent for the event.

In Ricky Jackson’s opinion, the hardest thing about being an up and coming fighter, is actually finding the fights themselves. Thankfully, with Henderson by Ricky’s side, and with Jackson’s undefeated record, it does not seem like he has had it as tough as others.

As Henderson commented, “There are some issues because for the sport to grow, it must grow as a business. To get fights, it is about how many butts you can put in the seats first, and then it is about how good you are. However, if you put butts in the seats but you are just an average Joe or worse, you still won’t get the fights. So our strategy is that I focus on the ‘butts’ in the seats and Ricky focuses on kicking butts.”

After weighing all the odds against an up and coming fighter including financial instability, difficulty finding fights, bodily injury, working multiple jobs to keep a fighter’s dream alive, sacrificing location to train with the best, one must ask: why still subject oneself to this?

As Ricky Jackson said, “I always knew I was going pro from the day I did my first amateur fight. It just felt like I found what I was put here for- to be a gladiator.”

And that is the true nature of it all. He found purpose. Ricky was honest with himself. He knew the odds. He knew what steps to take and how to take them. Most importantly, he found a calling and had the balls to manipulate his purpose into his success, all the while facing overwhelming adversity. The Gods love courage and defiance, and those traits, along with a sense of purpose, serve as Jackson’s indispensable allies.

The fight is a week away.

Eric Bates writes for TheFanManifesto. Visit Ricky’s Facebook page here.

The entire FanMan team can be followed on Twitter at @TheFanManifesto, or liked on Facebook by clicking here.

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