Most MMA fighters hire a manager to handle the aspects of business not directly related to fighting. But what is the role of an MMA manager and what do they actually do?
MMA manager is responsible for negotiating contracts with the promotions, boxing out the best possible matchups, and agreements related to money, finding sponsorship deals and using their connections within the industry to enable you to rise as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
For their services, they usually receive between 5% and 20% of fighters’ purses.
This is just a brief explanation of what MMA managers do. Thus, be sure to read this article to learn more about their role, how much they earn, and who are the best managers in the business.
What Do MMA Managers Do?
The MMA management world is very complex and unpredictable. You have to deal with multiple aspects related to fighters’ careers. From negotiating contracts, and securing the best deals to finding the best sponsors and even movie roles, good MMA managers must be very adaptable. Here are some of their main tasks.
Use connections to provide opportunities
MMA managers have connections both inside and outside the industry and are very resourceful people. They are constantly in contact with other managers, promotions, nutritionists, matchmakers, coaches, and gyms.
Second, they are educated when it comes to legal aspects of the game such as contracts. And they know the lawyers to help you in certain situations, notably when it comes to contract structure or disputes.
Further, if you want to develop top-level skills, they might connect you with the best coaches or gyms in the industry. Training alongside the best fighters will speed up your progress in terms of skills and enable you to climb the lathers faster.
If you are a hot prospect but can’t reach the UFC, they might know the matchmaker and talk to them about your talent and potential. They might already have a couple of fighters in the UFC and can rely on their credibility to secure you a shot in the UFC. Or a place where you can prove your worth such as the “Contender Series” or “The Ultimate Fighter” show.
Grows fighters’ career and finds the best matchups
MMA managers are responsible for growing your career in the right direction. First, they will carefully choose the gym and coaches you train with, and sparring partners. And above all, the promotion and the opponents you will compete against. They won’t risk it all by throwing you right into the fire but rather methodically grow your career.
You won’t be taking short-notice fights against unknown but tough opponents. Fighters are often tough for their own good and accepting these fights can only harm their careers. For instance, let’s assume you are a talented striker still working on the grappling game. The manager would never give you a green light to fight an NCAA Division I wrestler, not in the wildest dreams.
Instead, they will always look for a stylistic matchup that suits you the best. This, logically, increases your chances of winning, which buys you more time to develop an all-around game. If you want to succeed, you have to take a strategic and methodical approach and a good manager will help you stay on the winning track.
Looking for the best possible matchup is also a common practice at the highest levels of the game as well. Top-level UFC fighters are constantly turning down fights that do not suit them stylistically. Or, they won’t accept a match in which they have nothing to gain in terms of the rankings, but have everything to lose.
MMA managers play a vital role in negotiating the best possible contract for the fighters. They are the ones who have the experience, communication, and negotiating skills to box out the best possible deals. MMA fighters might be well aware of their worth. But a good manager will always secure a better deal for a fighter than if they were negotiating themselves.
Since managers work for the % of the fighters’ purse, it is in their best interest to get the most money possible. They will put all their negotiating skills into work and connections within the industry to find the best opportunities. This includes making dozens of calls and attending many meetings until the deal gets done.
Contract negotiations are intense, and usually take a lot of time and energy, and doing it on your own is not a smart idea.
Good managers also play a big role when it comes to different clauses within the contracts and other legal aspects. Fighters may have a hard time understanding and dealing with all the legal aspects of the game. On the other side, managers know them like the back of their pocket, and this makes your life much easier.
Deals with paperwork, media, and brand
Being a pro-MMA fighter carries many obligations outside of the fighting game. First, you have to deal with media, and build a brand and strong fan base. Next, you have to handle the paperwork for Athletic Commissions, Promotions, etc.
As one would assume, dealing with these things takes a lot of time. A time you can use for training, recovery, or other things related to your performance. And this is where managers come into play.
First, they will organize all of these activities according to your training schedule. Next, they will secure interviews with credible media networks so that you can reach as many fans as possible. In fact, they can also enroll you in media training where you can learn how to act in front of the camera. This enables you to get the most out of your persona during the media work, and attract more fans. Promotions love these types of athletes because they usually know how to sell a fight.
Managers can also help you build a brand through digital content, notably when it comes to social networks, and developing a large fan base. Having a decent following on social networks is really important these days. Even Dana White once stated they always look at the fighters’ social media profiles and how many followers they have. In the end, this all converts into tickets and PPV buys.
They can do this by hiring experts in digital marketing to help you manage and boost your profile.
Secures sponsorship deals and endorsements
MMA managers have connections outside the industry as well. As the fighters’ career grows and they are becoming more famous, they will receive offers from many companies to promote and be the face of their brand. Instead of answering dozens of calls every day, managers will do that for you. They will pick only the companies that offer the best conditions, and of course, suit your brand and personality.
As a rising or already established athlete, you want to work with the most recognizable brands. Apart from money, these companies give you extra exposure to their client base, which will boost your personal brand as a fighter. Thus, picking the right business partner is crucial and that’s why a good manager is important.
Saves you time and money on other general tasks
Apart from helping you grow as an athlete, a good manager to run your career saves you a lot of time on general tasks. They will take care of your flight tickets, visas, and accommodation. They will find you a place where you can train in a city you are traveling to fight, and do many other things so that you can focus solely on the fight ahead.
How Much Do MMA/UFC Managers Make?
MMA managers earn anywhere between 5% and 20% of the fighters’ purses. The exact amount is based on the individual agreement between the fighter and the manager. Overall, MMA managers earn a couple of thousands working for low-level fighters, or multiple millions if they represent the biggest stars in the UFC for example.
For example, the lowest-paid UFC fighters are the newcomers. They usually get $10,000 to show up and another $10,000 if they win, so $20,000 is the best-case scenario. A manager who gets 20% will earn 2,000 in case of a loss, or $4,000 if their fighter wins. This number significantly increases if a fighter manages to win a $50,000 post-fight bonus which we didn’t take into account.
UFC fighters competing at the medium level can earn anywhere between $50,000 and up to $100,000 for a fight. In most cases, these fighters have gone through initial two UFC contracts and already have a couple of wins on their record. If they are considered a promising prospect, a manager might secure them a solid, six-figure deal. This means a manager may expect to earn between $10,000 and $20,000 per fighter, per fight at the medium level of competition.
On the other side, UFC Champions and the biggest stars earn anywhere between $800,000 and 10 million for a fight, including bonuses such as PPV shares. Managers at this level can cash out a small fortune per each bout, up to 2 million if you are Conor Mcgregor’s manager getting 20% per fight.
What is the average income of a UFC manager?
On average, UFC fighters are paid around $50,000 per fight and earn close to $150,000 per year if they compete 3 times. This means that a manager who takes 20% of the fighters’ purse cashes out $10,000 per fighter, per fight, on average. Or $30,000 if their fighter competes for three times a year.
Bear in mind that good MMA managers have multiple fighters in the UFC competing at different levels. Some of them manage up to 80 UFC fighters like Dominance Management for instance. Some of them might be newcomers while some might be champions, and the incomes of these management agencies are measured in millions.
How MMA Managers Find Fighters?
MMA managers usually have a team of people or partners they work with. Together, they would primarily focus on amateur competition and low-level shows where they can spot a talented fighter early and bring them in. They also have databases where they keep the records and follow the progression of certain athletes they are looking to work with in the future.
How many fighters an MMA manager would work with depends on many factors. The approach they take, the ability to handle multiple athletes, and of course, their credibility within the industry. Some managers choose quality over quantity. They prefer to focus on a couple of fighters and build their careers methodically. Others might choose the opposite approach and “battle” to bring any fighter they consider to have the potential to reach high levels of the game.
Overall, all managers have strong connections within smaller promotions and gyms. They can quickly get to know the new up-and-coming prospects. Apart from just making phone calls, sending emails, and watching the footage, they also attend live events, observe fighters training in the gym, and talk to them in person before making them an offer.
Why Do MMA Fighters Need Managers?
Being a pro-MMA fighter is physically and mentally exhausting and takes a lot of your time. Having a manager enables them to solely focus on training, crafting their skills, and recovering. They don’t have to worry too much about the other aspects of the game.
Enables a fighter to focus on their main task
Pro-MMA fighters train up to three times a day, six days a week and they barely have enough time to recover or spend time with their families. Focusing solely on training and improving your game asks for full commitment and sacrifice. You simply don’t have enough physical and mental energy to deal with other things.
Aspects related to management such as negotiations or finding sponsors is a serious job that, like fighting, requires full commitment if you want to do it right. At one point, you will have to compromise your training or other aspects related to your skill improvement to manage your career, which is a bad strategy in the long run.
Managers are more skilled in other aspects of the fighting game
MMA is a fighting business that, apart from intense fighting inside the cage, includes other aspects. Things like negotiations, finding sponsors, and boxing out the best deals, all of this require a specific set of personal skills fighters might not have. It takes time and experience to learn this aspect of the game inside out and to always get the most out of every deal.
In most cases, fighters are too emotional during intense negotiations. This is bad as it prevents them from having a clear and objective look, and making rational decisions. It causes them to be impulsive, have a narrow view of the situation, and in the end, be prone to manipulation. Managers, on the other side, often have a more objective look and see things you are missing. They are usually more patient, and better at keeping their mind and emotions cold, which then enable them to play the negotiating game in a more effective way.
Do MMA Managers Need a License?
Whether you are required to obtain a license to operate as an MMA manager depends on the country. In some, you don’t need any license to work as an MMA manager and represent fighters and run their careers. In some other countries, you just need to apply for the license and get it without having to undergo any testing. There are no standards a manager must follow, which enables you to start representing the fighters right away.
There is also an option where you can attend an MMA management private course, and become a qualified manager. These courses help you develop strong negotiating skills, and teach you the most important legal aspects of the business and how to manage fighters.
After completing a course you will have a basic understanding of all the legal aspects of the game, and of course, you will become a licensed manager.
Who Are The Best Managers in MMA?
The best managers in MMA are actually agencies that basically operate as legitimate companies. Some of these agencies represent over 200 fighters, with 100 of them fighting for the biggest promotions, and their revenues are massive. Here are some of the biggest ones:
Dominance Management — is perhaps the biggest MMA agency based in Las Vegas that has over 200 fighters with over 80 of them competing in the UFC. Some of the biggest names represented by Dominance are Kamaru Usman, Gilbert Burns, Islam Makhachev, Henry Cejudo, and many other champions and high-level fighters. The agency was founded by Ali Abdelaziz, who has been the main manager for over two decades.
Rugby Sports and Entertainment — is a sports agency specialized in the career management of combat sports athletes, notably the ones from MMA. The agency manages high-profile UFC fighters such as Petr Yan, Rafel Fiziev, Michael Chiesa, Shavkat Rakhmonov, and many others.
Paradigm MMA — is an agency that works with some of the biggest names in the business such as Connor McGregor, Jiri Prochazka, Israel Adesanya, and Leon Edwards, all UFC champions. Founded in 2009, Paradigm MMA always stood for a premiere agency, and one of the best when it comes to boxing the best contracts, sponsorship deals, and overall, maximizing the income.
Zinkin MMA — is a sports management and marketing agency specialized in MMA. Founded way back in 2001, many great fighters have been represented by Zinkin such as Chuck Liddell, Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier, and Cain Velasquez.
How to Find an MMA Manager?
Finding an MMA manager is not a hard task, but finding the right one with whom you can build a strong relationship is. If you are a talented fighter, it is likely managers will reach out to you first, that’s how it usually goes because these people have scouts and connections everywhere. But if you live in an area where MMA is not well-developed, you might have a hard time finding a real manager who can help you make a breakthrough.
In this digital world, you can always find agencies online and send them an email about your aspirations, as well as a short resume of your career and progress. Or, you can always ask your coaches, other fighters, or even promoters in the smaller shows to recommend you a good manager.
Overall, the MMA community is small, and if you have what it takes to succeed, you will get noticed very quickly and receive a phone call without having to search for a manager by yourself.
Final Thoughts on Managers in MMA
MMA has become a mainstream sport. With millions of fighters worldwide and dozens if not hundreds of different promotions, navigating through this world alone is quite challenging. Having a manager is optional and no one can force you to have one. But if you are serious about becoming a pro-MMA fighter, you might consider hiring one at some point in your career.
Some fighters start cooperating with management agencies at the amateur level, while some will wait to gain some experience and enter the professional MMA world alone. Once they find themselves having a hard time managing their training with other obligations, they might start looking for a manager.
Overall, having a manager has more pros than cons. A good manager will do a much better job at finding opportunities and securing good deals than if you were doing it all by yourself, that’s for sure.