By: Dom Niranont
The cage door opens. The crowd is cheering in anticipation for a raging war between two men in the octagon. The ring smells like an old locker room with dried blood stains on the mat. Then Ryan Parker enters the ring. He locks eyes with his opponent as the adrenaline pumps through his veins making his heart beat increasingly faster. Parker was ready to prove that he was the better man that night. At the sound of the bell the two men charged each other, attempting to land the knockout blow within the first few seconds on the first round. Then Parker’s opponent shot for a takedown,which he easily stuffed and gained dominant position on the ground. For the next two minutes, Parker would continue to reign down punches from the mount position until the referee would intervene, signaling the end of the fight. Parker proved that he was the better man that night.
The 23 year old is a former CNU student who graduated last December. He is currently the light heavyweight champion of two amateur promotions with a 6-1 record, and trains at X Combat Wrestling Traps in Norfolk, Virginia.
“I never wanted to fight at first,” he said when asked about when he started fighting. He was asked to be a training partner by his former high school wrestling coach for one of his fighter’s upcoming bout. While being a training partner, his coach found major potential in Parker to be a fighter, thus, adamantly persuading him to fight. “I finally decided to fight,” he said. “I was originally going to fight once, but no matter if you win or lose you will always want to fight again.”
The sport of MMA is a difficult sport to endure. One would think that fighters would be well compensated for the physical punishment they take, however, this is not the case. MMA fighters make very little until they make it to the pros. Even then, the amount of money professionals make compared to other professional athletes is significantly less. Bleacher Report compared MMA fighters’ earnings with earnings of professional boxers, and found that high profile MMA fighters, such as Ronda Rousey, earned $90,000 after a main event, whereas, Manny Pacquiao earned $26,000,000 after a main event. Recently, the UFC made a deal with Reebok that a lot of fighters spoke out against due to the amount of money they would lose as a result of the deal, including former champion Jose Aldo. Most of the backlash is due to the loss of sponsors that fighters faced since they are only allowed to wear reebok gear during fight week. Unfortunately, the Reebok deal makes Parker question whether he still wants to pursue the UFC, or fight for another professional promotion.
“I gotta be paid for what I do,” he said with a laugh. “I want to prove I’m the best so I want to eventually fight for UFC, but I want to make the most money.” There are other promotions Parker can sign with that will allow him to keep as many sponsorship as he pleases, such as Bellator and World Series of Fighting. On the downside, these promotions are not as popular as the UFC. The most recent UFC event had over 1,400,000 views, whereas Bellator averaged 566,000 views and World Series of Fighting averaged 213,000 views. This begs the question: would a fighter rather have more money, or be well known in the MMA world?
MMA fighters should be compensated more for their fights. While having sponsorships aid in paying the bills, the promotions should be giving them higher fight salaries. For one, they are receiving physically brutal punishment. Up and coming fighters, such as Mickey Gall, should be earning more than $10,000 just to show up to fight. The second reason is fighters have to make a decent living. Parker mentioned that not only do fighters have to pay their personal bills, but also other fees, such as gym fees and doctor fees after fights. With the UFC’s Reebok deal, up and coming fighters are faced with many financial difficulties, which may cause a huge impact on their career. Is it even worth fighting anymore? Even with top tier MMA fighters, they are not earning the same amount as other athletes. It is not fair for a MMA fighter to earn six figures where a boxer can earn seven to eight figures.
For Parker’s situation, he should be compensated properly after his fights. However, is seeking the most amount of money more important than being well known? I believe that being well known is the better choice. With regards to the viewership numbers stated earlier, who cares if a fighter is making more money in a different promotion with low viewership. If nobody knows who the fighter is, then nobody would care to see that fighter fight. Thus, one must strive to fight for the UFC. Not only for the higher level of competition, but because more people will be watching, which will raise a fighter’s popularity and attract more people to watch their fight.
Parker has moved on from the college lifestyle and is now working for a company in Norfolk in the accounting department, and is still striving to become a professional fighter. “Fighting gives me the opportunity to have a higher standard of living, and to offer my family a better life than what I had growing up.” As he continues his MMA career, he is still striving to become the best MMA fighter even though MMA fighters are well underpaid. But as parker sees it, there’s no other way but up from where he is now. He is using the underpaid earnings as a way to stay motivated in order to achieve the large earnings, and to possibly gain well paying sponsors.
After conducting this interview with Parker, it is clear to me that he has a strong passion for this sport. I could gain a sense that he really wants to be the greatest MMA fighter, and is willing to put in the work during training to prove it. Hopefully he will be able to overcome the unfair earnings of being a fighter as well. He has an upcoming bout in April for the Tuff-N-Uff promotion that a lot of famous professional fighters, such as Jon Fitch, fought for before they went pro. With potential scouts watching the fights, Ryan Parker is ready prove that not only will he be the best man that night, but also the best fighter in MMA.