MMA pay structure makes Oscar De La Hoya 'sick,' but which end of the spectrum will 'Golden Boy' seek to improve?

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Oscar De La Hoya is really doing this MMA thing. Golden Boy Promotions, of which De La Hoya is CEO, has picked out a date, filed an application with the California State Athletic Commission, and seized on a main event.

According to De La Hoya, this is how he’ll bring us Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz III on November 24. It’s also how he’ll ensure that, at least on his watch, MMA fighters finally start getting the money they deserve.

“I’m really looking forward to getting into the MMA world and making sure that these fighters are being compensated well,” De La Hoya told Fight Hub TV recently. “Because, look, we risk our lives up in the ring. So fighters should be compensated extremely well.”

Responding to a follow-up question about the current pay structure in MMA, De La Hoya added:

“The current structure’s terrible. I’ve been talking to many, many fighters in the MMA, and it’s ridiculous what they get paid. It’s crazy. It gets me sick to my stomach. So I’m going to start Golden Boy MMA for a reason, and it’s going to start with Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, to pay them correctly, to pay them what they deserve.”

The question that immediately leaps to mind is, who does he mean by “they”?

When it comes to pay-per-view headliners, yes, boxing paydays tend to have more zeroes and commas than those in MMA.

The pay is so good, in fact, that the UFC was very content to sit back and take a cut of Conor McGregor’s money when he boxed Floyd Mayweather last summer, and that reportedly accounted for one of the biggest financial successes of the year for the UFC, which did little more than sign off on the fight.

But when it comes to fighters further down on the card, that’s where the issue gets a little fuzzy.

Golden Boy’s Canelo Alvarez, for example? In 2017 he made a disclosed guarantee of $5 million to fight Gennady Golovkin, who pocketed a guaranteed $3 million. Those payouts dwarf the guaranteed disclosed purses for Daniel Cormier ($500,000) and Stipe Miocic ($750,000) for their UFC heavyweight title fight at UFC 226 last month.

The lowest paid fighters on that UFC card were curtain-jerkers Emily Whitmire ($10,000 to show, another $10,000 for her victory) and Jamie Moyle ($12,000).

But on the Canelo-Golovkin card, featherweight Rafael Rivera made just $15,000 in disclosed pay to go 12 rounds in a losing effort against Joseph Diaz, who pocketed $200,000. In the opening bout of that four-fight card, Ryan Martin was guaranteed $50,000 for his win over Francisco Rojo, who made $25,000.

Does boxing still come out looking like a better deal there? Sure it does. And other Golden Boy undercards have paid out significantly more. Of course, they’ve also typically offered a lot fewer bouts – certainly nothing close to the 11 fights on tap for events like UFC 226 – which leads to less overall opportunity.

Still, it makes you wonder if Golden Boy’s focus on improving pay will be strictly tilted toward the fighters on the high end of the spectrum.

As of right now, De La Hoya said he hasn’t even given much thought to bouts outside the main event, which is..

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