Earlier this week, we look at the distribution of UFC base pay in 2017. Let’s take it one step further and break it down by gender.
We’ll get to the meat of the box plot below, but I wanted to give a glimpse of the whole picture first. The men have far more data points that are considered outliers. (In this case, we’re using the standard definition of an outlier in the context of a box plot: data points 1.5 times the interquartile range [i.e., the range of the box from end to end] or further away from either end of the box.) These points actually represent a larger share of the total number of women’s fights (~15%) than the men’s (~11%).
If we zoom in a bit, we can get a better comparison of the bulk of the data.
Quick explanation of box plots: the ends of the lines represent the minimum (left) and maximum (right) values (excluding outliers), the edges of the box represent the 25th (left) and 75th (right) quantiles, the line in the middle is the median, or 50th quantile.
This differences are minimal on the low end. Both have a minimum of $10,000. The 25th quantile is $12,000 for the men and $10,500 for the women.
Those differences get larger as we move to the high end. Median base pay is $24,000 for men and $18,000 for women, which is a 29% difference using the midpoint formula. The 75th quantile is $50,000 for men and $32,250 for women, a 43% difference. And the maximum (outliers excluded) is $100,000 for men and $41,000 for women, an 83% difference.
Simply, there’s more top-dollar male talent than female, which we can further illustrate by looking at box plots by division:
Some notes. First, our graph is cut off at 500,000 for clarity. Daniel Cormier, Alistair Overeem (twice), and Mark Hunt all took home base pays larger than this cut off. Second, women’s bantamweight has the odd distinction of not having had any fights in a jurisdiction that requires reported pay. Third, women’s featherweight consists of two fights: Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg vs. Tonya Evinger. These three women make up the top four reported base pays for all women. Finally, seven of the ten women’s flyweight fights took place at The Ultimate Fighter Finale, where all but the finalists (who took home $100,000 each) made $10,000 to show.
With that out of the way, we can see that women’s strawweight compares favorably to men’s flyweight and men’s bantamweight:
Again, we’ve zoomed in here for clarity by ignoring the outliers. Only one title fight in these three weight classes – Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg – had reported pay. As was the trend generally, the base pay discrepancy arises at the top of the pay scale. And here’s how things look at the very top:
This doesn’t look so bad when we consider the tenures of Johnson, Dominick Cruz, and Urijah Faber, though Cody Garbrandt making nearly twice as much as Jedrzejczyk within six months of her third title defense raises an eyebrow. At the same time, the Jedrzejczyk fight headlined a TUF Finale while Garbrandt and Cruz co-mained a big PPV under Ronda Rousey.
I would caution against using the above data to suggest that there’s systemic pay discrepancy between men and women in the UFC. That’s not to say that there isn’t an issue, but we’re working with very limited data in terms of what’s been reported (including the usual caveats about PPV percentages and whatever “locker room bonuses” are left in the WME era).