The new bonus is part of the 10-year, $175 million partnership between the MMA company and Crypto.com, the biggest sponsorship in UFC history. For each PPV event, fans will vote on the most deserving fighters. The top vote getter will win $30,000 worth of bitcoin, with $20,000 for second place, and $10,000 for third.
“Crypto.com has been an official UFC partner for less than a year, and I’m telling you they are already one of the best partners we’ve ever had,” UFC president Dana White said in a statement. “This new Fan Bonus of the Night is an awesome way to get fans more engaged in our events while rewarding the fighters for bad-ass performances.”
UFC, which is owned by Endeavor (NYSE: EDR), is often criticized for how it compensates fighters. While most major U.S. leagues share about half their revenue with their athletes, UFC shares closer to 20%. It’s a complex, tiered system that varies by the fighter. A newcomer might fight on a “10-and-10”—$10,000 to show up, another $10,000 if you win—while an established fighter like a Conor McGregor will have much bigger guarantees, plus a percentage of PPV sales. All fighters also receive a payout for promos and week-of activities, which includes money for wearing Venum apparel.
These bitcoin bonuses will join the two $50,000 performance bonuses that UFC gives out at each event, plus the two $50,000 bonuses awarded to each athlete in the bout that’s named “Fight of the Night.” Theoretically, a fighter could win $80,000 in U.S. dollar and cryptocurrency through the bonus structure, which would be massive for a fighter competing on a 10-and-10. Last year, strawweight prospect Cheyanne Buys cried upon finding out that she’d won a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus, telling reporters, “I’ve been so broke my whole life because of this sport.”
UFC said that the fighters’ compensation increased as part of its switch from Reebok to Venum two years ago. It has also increased the share of money that athletes see in the growing world of NFTs. UFC fighters typically receive about 30% of UFC’s cut on licensed apparel and merchandise, and that was raised to 50% for NFTs. That said, it’s a topic that remains top of mind for many fighters, and for many critics of the MMA giant.
Cryptocurrency is already popular among athletes, with stars in many sports immediately choosing to convert their paychecks into bitcoin. It’s quickly become a very lucrative sponsorship category for leagues and teams as well—Crypto.com reportedly committed $700 million to put its name on the home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings.
Those two trends are starting to blend. In addition to this UFC bonus, the NWSL recently signed a deal with crypto brokerage Voyager Digital, in which roughly 50% of the payments will be made to athletes in the cryptocurrency of their choosing.
Founded in 2016, Crypto.com has more than 10 million customers worldwide. Its sports sponsorship portfolio includes the Los Angeles arena, the recently-announced F1 race in Miami, the Philadelphia 76ers, Australian Football League and French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain.