Ultimate Fighting Championship star Paige VanZant said last week that she deserves equal pay to male fighters.
VanZant, 25, appeared Monday on “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show” on ESPN alongside her husband and fellow MMA fighter Austin Vanderford. Now negotiating a new UFC contract, VanZant complained that she makes more money through sponsored posts on Instagram than she does fighting.
“With endorsements, I make way more money sitting at home posting pictures on Instagram than I do fighting,” she said. “If I were to stop everything I do outside of fighting and just fight, I would be at a loss financially by a long shot.”
One of the most popular professional fighters, VanZant has earned an estimated $474,500 in the ring over her five-year career. She has been out for most of the year after fracturing her army in a February bout, but said she expects the UFC to give her a “significant pay raise.”
“If I’m gonna keep breaking my arm, if I’m gonna keep bleeding and sacrificing for this sport, I think that all fighters and all female fighters need to be recognized,” she said before noting her accomplishments in the ring. “Five wins in the UFC, four finishes, I’ve been main event twice, and I think someone with those accolades should be paid more.”
“I make way more money sitting at home, posting pictures on Instagram, than I do fighting.”@paigevanzant says her endorsement earnings greatly outpace her fight earnings (via @arielhelwani) pic.twitter.com/dpdANFcbxU
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 26, 2019
According to MMA Manifestor, Conor McGregor, who recently retired, was the highest-paid male fighter last year, with a salary of $3.03 million. The best-compensated woman on the list was Cris Cyborg at $1.08 million. By another estimate, the only woman whose net worth cracks the top 20 is retired UFC legend Ronda Rousey.
However, the UFC has been widely credited with promoting its women, and VanZant has leveraged her fame to tap additional revenue streams. In addition to Instagram modeling, she has appeared on “Dancing With the Stars” and Chopped” and inked endorsement deals with the likes of Reebok, Monster Energy Drinks, MetroPCS and Harley-Davidson.
U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who led the national team to the World Cup championship in July, has also appealed to gender politics to make the case for equal pay. She recently suggested it shouldn’t matter if the men’t team brings in more money.
“I think we’re done with the ‘Are we worth it? Should we have equal pay? Is it, you know, is the market the same,’ yada, yada. Everyone is done with that – fans are done with that, players are done with that, in a lot of ways I think sponsors and everyone is done with that,” she said. “Let’s get to the next point of what’s next, how do we support women’s federation and women’s programs around the world. What can Fifa do to do that, what can we do to support the leagues around the world?”
In 2015, though, Rousey offered a different take. Asked by a reporter about the “gender pay gap,” she said the market should decide how much a person’s work is worth.
“I think that how much you get paid should have something to do with how much you bring in,” she said. “I’m the highest paid fighter not because [UFC President] Dana [White] and [CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta] wanted to do something nice for the ladies. They do it because I bring in the highest numbers. Because I make them the most money. So I think the money that they make should be proportionate to the money they bring in.”