Salaries and contract terms for top mixed martial arts fighters are a closely guarded secret. The UFC, for example, keeps their contracts completely under wraps. No one knows exactly how much top fighters make—and that's just the way the promotion likes it.
With that in mind, you can imagine the excitement of hardcore MMA fans on the Underground, a popular message board, when a fighter contract surfaced recently. Member "ShoeMoney," who has shown an ability to access other confidential information, claims to have got his hands on a 2008 contract between Russian great Fedor Emelianenko and promoter M-1 Global.
I can't vouch for certain that this leaked contract is authentic. If it's fake, someone spent an awful lot of time translating 45 pages into Russian and English. My hunch, but it's only a hunch, is that this is the real deal.
I intend to treat it as such and explore some of the intricacies of a high level fighter's promotional contract. Ready to dive in?
Fedor fought three times over the term of this contract. Because he won each of those bouts, he was paid $2 million a fight. Combined with his signing bonus of $1.5 million, he took home some major cash for his trouble.
The leaked contract states:
Global and Fighter are party to a binding Letter of Intent dated September 25, 2007 (“LOI”) and Fighter has received the first payment of $1,500,000, a signing bonus, as provided therein.
The UFC pays fighters a win bonus, usually the same amount they make to show up and fight. M-1 Global has something similar for Fedor. He didn't earn a win bonus, but he did get paid more if he was winning fights than he did if he was losing them. Fedor, in short, had a million reasons to win each bout:
6.2. Fighter Services/Bouts: In consideration for the Fighter Services provided and rights granted by Fighter pursuant to this Agreement, Global shall pay Contractor the following sums within two business days after the conclusion of each respective Bout. 6.2.1. For the first Bout, the sum of Two Million Dollars (U.S.$2,000,000.00).
6.2.2. For each subsequent Bout: 18.104.22.168. If Fighter won the previous Bout, the sum of Two Million Dollars (U.S.$2,000,000.00); or 22.214.171.124. If Fighter lost the previous Bout the sum of One Million Dollars (U.S.$1,000,000.00).
Emelianenko didn't have much control over who he fought. He was allowed to reject one proposed opponent, but only one. After that he was forced to choose between two proposed opponents. Matchmaking was almost solely in the hands of his promoter, M-1 Global:
2.4. Opponent(s): Fighter's opponent in each Bout shall be assigned by Global, at Global's sole discretion, provided, however that Fighter shall be entitled an opportunity to reject, in the exercise of commercially reasonable judgment, the first proposed opponent. Under such condition, Global shall then offer Fighter one additional proposed opponent. If Fighter wants to reject any opponent, Fighter must send Global written notice of such rejection within 48 hours of receipt of written notice of the assignment by Global. Fighter shall be obligated, however, to accept one of two opponents offered by Global to Fighter for such Bout. Any opponent shall be selected by Global in good faith negotiation with Manager. Global is obligated to make every commercially reasonable effort to select opponents that positively support the career of Fighter and will lead to a respected bout within the industry.
You don't drop a fight on Fedor Emelianenko at the last minute. He needs time to get his life in order—at least 90 days. Sixty of those days are for training. The rest, I guess, for eating ice cream cones and packing:
2.3.1. Understanding that Fighter has requested no less than 60 days to prepare for any bout, Global will use its commercially reasonable efforts to provide Contractor and Fighter no less than 90 days prior notice of the scheduling and venue of a Bout. The date and venue shall be as designated by Global in its sole discretion.
Everyone wanted to see a bout between Fedor and then UFC champion Randy Couture. It would have been huge for the UFC—and huge for Fedor. Emelianenko would have taken home $5 million for the fight, and another cool million if he'd won:
126.96.36.199. For a Bout between Fighter and the UFC Champion [to whom Global will maintain, during the Term hereof, a standing offer of Five Million Dollars (U.S.$5,000,000.00) as a fee] Global shall provide a purse for the winner of the Bout of an additional One Million Dollars (U.S.$1,000,000.00).
This contract is forever. Forever, ever. M-1 Global will be selling TV rights to these bouts for as long as there are televisions:
4.4. Telecast Video, Ownership: Contractor and Fighter agree and acknowledge that Global shall be the sole owner of, and shall have perpetual use and control of, all rights of whatever kind and character in and to the Bouts including tangible and intangible rights to all films, recordings, all forms of media, television production and broadcast (including without limitation, cable, syndicated, network and pay-perview), home video cassette distribution, theatrical distribution, non-theatrical distribution, and any other audio/visual/electronic or digital media, prints and copies of materials related to the Bouts and Fighter Services ("Media"), and shall be entitled to solely retain all proceeds derived from or arising out of the exploitation of all Media and Fighter's participation in the Bout(s).
M-1 Global would like to keep it classy, thank you very much. To that end, they keep a firm control over the logos and sponsors Fedor will wear into the cage. Want to get around their restrictions with a temporary tattoo? They are one step ahead of you:
3.3.1. Fighter covenants and agrees that no wording, symbols, pictures, designs, names or other advertising or informational material (i) for any beer, alcohol, beverage company, tobacco, casino or gaming company, media company, (ii) of any sponsor in conflict or competition with Global, or any of Global's sponsors; (iii) of any sponsor causing injury to the reputation of Global or Global's sponsors and/or their respective officers and owners; or (iv) which has not been pre-approved in writing by Global shall appear on the trunks, robe, shoes, regalia or any other part of the costume or the body (including by use of temporary or henna tattoos) of Fighter or any of Fighter's Affiliates during or at any Bouts, Pre-Bout Events or Post-Bout Events.
It's business class for one of the world's best fighters. After all, that flight from Russia to the U.S. or Japan is no joke. But for staff? It's back with the masses:
7.1.1. Two (2) round-trip business class and four round-trip economy class airline tickets from Fighter’s domicile to the location of the Bout.
7.1.2. Global shall pay for and provide a total of four (4) hotel rooms for occupancy by Fighter and up to five (5) individuals of Contractor’s designation. These may include, but are not limited to, Fighter’s manager, agent, trainer, seconds, sparring partners, and other persons associated with or connected with the Contractor for the Bout.
Bungee jumping is out. So is fencing. Any combat sport is a no-no except his beloved Sambo. M-1 doesn't want Fedor participating in amateur X-Games, so they've made it part of the contract. Fedor doesn't look like a sky diver, but just in case, it's expressly prohibited:
8.3. Fighter recognizes that Fighter's participation in other sports may impair or destroy his ability and skill as a mixed martial arts contestant. Accordingly, Fighter agrees, from the date of execution of this Agreement to the end of the Term, not to engage in or participate in any other sport or activity involving a substantial risk of personal injury, including but not limited to automobile or motorcycle racing, flying in or piloting a private aircraft, fencing, kickboxing, parachuting or skydiving, bungee jumping, boxing, skiing, or ice hockey, and that, without the express prior written consent of Global, Fighter will not engage in or participate in any amateur, collegiate or professional athletics sport.
This MMA stuff can be dangerous. Although we haven't seen a death in a UFC bout, there have been a handful of fatalities worldwide. M-1 wants to be sure that Fedor and his heirs are ready for that (unlikely) scenario:
9.2. In consideration for the opportunity to participate in the Bouts, and with full knowledge and complete assumption of all the risks, Fighter, for himself, his heirs, assigns, executors and administrators ("Releasing Parties") hereby irrevocably agrees that the Releasing Parties will not sue or claim against Global and each of its respective parents, subsidiary entities, affiliates, successors and assigns, and the respective directors, officers, members, managers, employees, agents, contractors, partners, shareholders and representatives, in their individual, personal and representative capacities for each of the foregoing entities ("Released Parties") for any injury, illness, damage, loss or harm to Fighter or Fighter's property, or Fighter's death, howsoever caused, resulting or arising out of or in connection with Fighter's preparation for, travel for, participation and appearance in any Global promotional events, the Bouts, the Pre-Bout Events and the Post-bout Events or any activities associated therewith.