My original idea for this article was to compare Sage Northcutt’s salary of $40k/$40k to other fighters in the UFC. The purpose was to make the argument that Northcutt is earning far too much at this stage of his career compared to veterans of our sport.
What I found in my research changed this.
This isn’t a fighter pay debate article that we see every second day. This is a story of a 39-year-old man with a wife and child.
It is a story that made me feel sick. This is the sad truth.
Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson is a fan favourite for the UFC. While he may not be the most aesthetically pleasing man to look at in MMA with his non-athletic frame and caveman like beard, he has managed to capture the hearts of media and fans all around the world.
Nelson has grown his fan-base into the tenth largest social media following on the UFC roster with 508,000 followers on Twitter. He has 200,000 more then Carlos Condit and 50,000 more then BJ Penn, which should give you an idea of how popular Nelson has become.
He surely isn’t the best fighter on the planet but he’s never been ranked worse than 13th in the heavyweight division, and has given us some knockouts finishes that will be forever on the highlight reel.
The sad story begins on the night of April 27, 2013.
Roy Nelson had just won the biggest win of his life. In devastating fashion he knocked out Cheick Kongo in the first round becoming a force in the UFC with three consecutive first-round knockout victories. With one fight left on his current UFC contract he was looking for a considerable pay raise from his 24k and 24k salary.
Two months later the UFC asked Nelson to take a short-notice fight against Stipe Miocic in a bid to save the dreadful card of UFC 161 Rashad Evans versus Dan Henderson. Nelson decided that he would take the fight and be one of the ‘company men’ that Dana White says he loves.
This meant he would fight twice in two and a half months for the UFC.
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Nelson went on to lose the fight by decision to Mioic, who is now the second-ranked heavyweight in the world.
This had Nelson going into contract negotiations 3-1 in his last four fights. Three consecutive first-round finishes and the Miocic loss – the fight he took as a favour to the UFC in efforts to save the UFC 161 card.
These are Dana White’s words when asked if there was any thought about not re-signing Roy Nelson
“No, not really. We wanted Roy, we were going to sign Roy anyway. It’s not like we were like ‘Oh Roy, you lost now you’re f**cked, buddy.’ We don’t do that. We don’t play like that.”
White is such a good guy for saying that.
They gave Roy a zero per cent increase in his pay.
Since August 7, 2010, Nelson has increased his salary by 11k per fight. 26k and 26k.
Nelson has headlined cards for three out of his past four last fights. UFC is using his name and recognition all around the world to earn profits.
The UFC fight night card Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira versus Nelson earned the UFC alone $1.8 million in gate. Nogueira’s salary was 10 times more than Nelson’s.
I was unable to find Josh Barnett versus Nelson and Mark Hunt versus Nelson’s numbers because international events often don’t release that information, but I can assume those also generated millions.
The UFC are using Roy Nelson’s name all over the world to lure in fans while paying him pennies on the dollar. These are the luxuries you get with the UFC when you try and be a ‘company man’.
A short-notice fight he took to save a card and bail out the UFC ultimately cost him an incredible amount of money.
Roy Nelson’s total ‘salary’ from the UFC to date is $521,000 in the last six years, earning him an average of $86,833 per year.
He’s headlined three cards in the last two years for the UFC. He has never fought anyone outside the top ten or legends since that zero per cent raise he received.
He never pulled out of a fight in his entire UFC career and has one of the biggest fan followings in the entire sport of MMA.
A 39-year-old man whose competed in front of thousands of fans live and millions at home has only earned a fraction of what he could have, all because of trying to help out the UFC.