Being a full time "Professional Fighter" - possible

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by Thomas, Sep 14, 2011.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    In another topic, it came up that one of the posters is a "professional fighter" (Master Betty). That leads me to wonder how common it is, and how viable it is, to make your living as a full time "professional" fighter.

    Are there any posters here who make their primary living from "fighting" (not coaching or instructing) ?

    If so, in what sport/art/whatever?

    How much does it pay? Are there benefits like paid days off, health insurance, retirement, etc?

    How long does an average career last?

    What are people planning to do (or doing) post-career?

    What does an average week look like (training-wise)?

    How often do you get fights? How much lead time and what are the average purses (win or loss)?

    If you do this full time, what does this equate to for standard of living? House, car, vacations, money in the bank? Are you making a good living by fighting alone?

    Or, do you supplement it? Do you have to work a day job to make ends meet and fund your fighting career?
  2. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    I don't think Betty fights for a living.
    Just fights at the professional level (the top rules of Thai boxing).
    I'm sure he's mentioned "work" getting in the way of training on his training log.
    Might be wrong though.
  3. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    Since the demise of Cage Rage it's been pretty tough to make a living as a fighter in the UK. In the US there's more opportunities, but obviously there's a larger talent pool as well, so it can be tough to make your entire living that way.
    Think of it as being like a band, some guys make a few hundred dollars a month playing small gigs, some guys earn enough to make a living from it if they work hard, and some guys make really good money.
    Once you're into that second tier, you've got sponsorship money coming in as well.
    Paid days off etc don't really count as you're typically paid for the fight.
    Longevity wise, at the elite level typically mid to late thirties, but there are plenty of people fighting in that second tier well into their forties.
    What do they do post fight career? Teach, do seminars, media work etc.
  4. Master Betty

    Master Betty Banned Banned

    I personally don't make a living off it, as was said above - I merely fight at a professional level. Depending on the sport this can mean lots of money or virtually none. Turning pro in boxing means immediately gaining about £500 for a fight. Fighting pro in thai boxing usually means start at about a tenth that. At my current level I'm lucky to get about £100 for a fight including my ticket commission.

    Very few in my sport make it a as full time professional fighter and it's usually supplemented by coaching and seminars etc. as well. My long term goal is to do exactly that - I eventually want my own fulltime fight gym which means I can hopefully make money off that, coach a thai boxing club in my premises which will also make a little money, and continue fighting which will again make me a little money.

    I'm friends with Jojo Calderwood who is probably ranked no.1 in europe for ladies muay thai at her weight and her boyfriend is james doolan who is also ranked in the top 5 for MMA in britain at his weight I believe. He also has an STBA scottish title in muay thai. As far as I can tell they both live and train fulltime from fighting, but it's a tough life, the cash doesn't exactly flow until you hit the big leagues and even then, the real money comes from sponsorship and pay-per-view.

    As I've said on other threads, this is why fighters like lyoto machida for example are so keen to point out they do shotokan karate etc. Because at the end of the day it's the fans who pay the wages and people like lyoto attract a lot of karate fans who would never otherwise watch the UFC, simply because theres "a karate guy" doing well in UFC. It's also the reason very few MMA guys will just come right out and say XYZ art is bullcrap - because as soon as they say it, they're immediately making enemies of virtually every practitioner of that art lol.

    As for myself, I hold a license with the STBA and the UKMF. There are a few sanctioning bodies in UK muay thai and it doesn't really work like british boxing where, if you wanna go pro, you pretty much have to sing up with the one body - the BBBoC.
  5. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    Maybe in third world countries they barely make a living out of it, but in a society where we have the luxury of choice I don't know anyone who would want to be a full time fighter and if they do, they go join the military or the police force. For the professional, I would imagine that fighting is a part time passion with money thrown in once in a while.
  6. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

  7. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Why WOULDN'T you wanna do it full-time? I'd love to!
  8. jh1

    jh1 Valued Member

    Most professional fighters have a day jobs or side jobs, unless they are in the upper tiers.
  9. StuartA

    StuartA Guardian of real TKD :-)

    I think Phil Whitlock (PUMA) could be termed a pro-fighter.

    Hes a ring fighter, who (like MB) gets paid (not sure how much), is sponsored and fights full-contact!

    As well as that, he teachs TKD & Kick-Boxing (I think) and is part of the PUMA (Taekwon-Do) squad.


    Ps. He also does patterns :)
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Wow - what great bunch of information - big thanks to all who've shared and who might share further.

    I figured it would be tough to make a living off fighting alone - seems like a combination of fighting and then running a gym or something would make sense.
  11. Hummmmm, yes, it is a tough endeavor where dedication, training, consistency and luck play a big part.
    You will also need world class coaches and a bit of luck...

    Nothing much different from becoming a renown pianist, violinist, chess player, singer, world class entrepreneur, painter, etc...

    How bad do you want it?
    How much are you ready to sacrifice?

    Good luck in your endeavors. :)

  12. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Thanks for the kind words - I was just curious how many people on MAP (which has a pretty high amount of posters) actually are able to make a living off "fighting"... I figured it would be pretty low but also figured there'd be a few out there. We seem to have plenty of "experts" on ring fighting/MMA/professional fighting but not really a lot of people who "do" it.

    For me, I make my living teaching history in a school... fun, challenging, SAFE work. I love being involved in the martial arts and as an instructor, I expect to be around for a long time (don't make any money, but the satisfaction is good!)
  13. Happy Feet Cotton Tail

    Happy Feet Cotton Tail Valued Member

    Ring fighting/MMA and professional fighting are not neccessarily inter-changable terms. Just because you're not a "pro" doesn't mean you don't have ring fighting experience.

    There are amatuer and semi-pro competitions going on all year round in the world of martial arts that plenty of MAP members here have experience in.

    The real difficult part of the fight game is aqquiring the fame and ability required to get people paying you. Getting an opportunity to strut your stuff at a tournament/fight show is quite easy and popular now.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2011
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Yup - I agree.

    I was curious to see how many MAPpers here actually make a living off "fighting" - as "professional fighters". It is a bit different to make your living and support a family off your art/sport than it is to work a "day" job and then use your own time and resources to get into a ring/cage/tourny/etc.

    You are right that a lot of people here have quite a bit of experience from local to state to national level. I was looking for anyone who actually "fights" for a living. (That's different than the more common martial arts "professions" of instructor or whatever)
  15. Doublejab

    Doublejab formally Snoop

    If you define professional as someone who purely earns their living from prize fighting then there aren't that many professional fighters in the whole of the UK, let alone on MAP!

    I used to train with a guy called Danny Batton, ranked top feather weight in the UK for years, top 5 in Europe, fought in Japan several times. Still ranked UK top 5 now I would think. He's a postman, and has been for many years.

    I know a few fighters who don't work and are just trying to make it in fighting, some are on benefits, and most live at home with their parents. Most have second jobs however.

    The same goes for 95% of professional boxers. And probably pretty much all thai boxers and kick boxers.

    Some British fighters obviously make a decent living, Bisping, Hardy, Daley, Hathaway, Picket, but they are the exceptions. And I doubt they're exactly rich from fighting, Bisping aside.
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Good points.

    If someone presents themself as a "professional fighter", what does that mean? Does it mean that fighting is their "profession", i.e. their primary source of income and benefits or does it mean they fight in a class labelled "professional" and that is their rank/title/status? I think in most jobs, calling oneself a "professional xxxx" would indicate the former definition, not the latter.

    That said, my aim isn't to take away from people who fight in the upper leagues of organized sports just because they have to work a day job to pay the bills. I respect that completely. It still seems that there is a bit of a difference between a postman who is ranked in the top 5 (was it boxing in your example) and someone who makes their living at "fighting". Is the postman a "professional fighter" or a postman who is really good at his hobby?

    Regardless, for the thread, I'm more curious about people who make their living in the fighting arts (not as an instructor or coach, but as a"fighter").
  17. StuartA

    StuartA Guardian of real TKD :-)

    According to a quick google (which brough up Wiki):
    In sports, a professional is someone who receives monetary compensation for participating. The opposite is an amateur , meaning a person who does not receive monetary compensation. The term "professional" is commonly used incorrectly when referring to sports, as the distinction simply refers to how the athlete is funded, and not necessarily competitions or achievements.

    I would say someone is a 'pro' (as a fighter) if they make regular money from competing.. not nessecarily every time (as there are a lot of amatuer comps).. but regular, in the form of payment, as akin to winning prize money!

  18. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Fair enough - makes sense.

    It would seem that some people reach a level where they can be paid to fight, and even if it's not enough to "live on", that's pretty awesome. I'd be interested in seeing how much people actually make on fights.

    Along the original post/topic though, it doesn't seem like there are very many people who make to a level where they can be a "fulltime" professional fighter (and earn their living off it). I wonder how many people start off with that dream....
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2011
  19. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    But the thing is in MA you have levels of competition rules.
    Amateur MMA doesn't have headshots at all.
    Semi-pro doesn't have them on the ground.
    Pro has them wherever you want.
    Thai has similar levels (instead removing elbows and knees and adding padding at various levels).
    So someone can compete at the pro level (meaning the top level rules) even though they do a day job and actually lose money because training and travelling cost more than they get back from fighting.
    For example..a mate of mine fought on a Thai show in Leeds. I forget the exact level of rules but he had shinnies on so it certainly wasnt "pro". He still got paid £20 for his troubles. But considering he had to pay for weeks of training (£5 a session) and travel to get there, I think it's safe to say he didn't come out of it rolling in cash. :)

    So there's a BIG difference between being a pro level fighter and being a professional fighter.
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    I woke up thinking about this.

    By "benefits", do you mean a kind of welfare/unemployment system that pays money from the government to these fighters since they don't have a "job"?

    As a hardworking taxpayer, I'd have a bit of an issue with my taxdollars going towards martial arts/fighting training/fees/ insurance/licenses/training gear/Tapout shirts/Tatoos and etc for a person who is clearly young and healthy enough to work a regular job and earn their own money to pay for this kind of hobby. It's pretty clear that very few make it to a level where they can earn a living off it, seems like a better bet for public money would be to funnel these people into job training or education to get well-paying jobs so they can support themselves.

    Not meant as any disrespect to any of these hard-training fighters, but I can't see using tax money to finance it.

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