“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” -Bruce Lee
It’s May 12th as I write this (over three months since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by WHO) and I find myself musing over the fact that out of all the major sporting events that were cancelled, Martial Arts was the first to return. It kicked off with (UFC 249) last Saturday, the two upcoming UFC’s and F2W 139 (Fight to Win Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) this weekend. What stands out to me, is the fact that these athletes are among the lowest paid in professional sports. Surprising, if you consider what they put themselves through to do what they do. Granted, all of these sports with the exception of online video gaming (did I just say that?) have been around for much longer. One could argue that because they are paid less there is more incentive for them to fight and make money but the organizations are the ones who have to hurdle their way to making the fight happen. Not an easy task, when a majority of the population is fear stricken and hiding under a rock. Note: I imagine an animal in nature would very quickly move down the predatorial ranks if a majority of their decisions were driven by fear. But… I digress.
Below I have listed the average annual salaries for Golf, Tennis, NFL, NBA and the UFC (Jiu Jitsu earns significantly less so I won’t include it, sad face..) to give some perspective. Each sport is hard in their own right but my intention is to present the question.. why are the Martial Artists paid significantly less and yet the first to return to televised sports? Since I can’t share what’s going on in the lives of the other athletes and their perspective I will share mine to represent the Martial Artists’ view. Here are the average yearly earnings if you do a quick google search.
1. NBA 7.7 million
2. NFL 2.7 million
3. PGA 2 million
4. Tennis 300,000
If you have participated in competitive martial arts, and I include wrestling and boxing in this category, you understand it is one of the most difficult things you will ever do that isn’t incentivized by money. While it is among the most physically demanding pursuits, many athletes like myself, make no money (with the exception of sponsors and occasional prize money). The organization I fight in most often (IBJJF), doesn’t even pay it’s fighters to win! But if you want to fight the best, you’ll go there. Combat sports are highly technical and strategic yet so much is determined by your spirit and will power. It requires an extreme level of discipline and mental toughness that will award any individual the merits to be successful in life. There are many biblical references which show that wrestling has been around for thousands of years, not to mention that we do it instinctively at a young age. In most Asian and European countries Martial Arts are incredibly popular and the average person is somewhat educated on the topic.
To me the significance of the UFC and Jiu Jitsu coming back is this. It has to do with the culture of both the organization and the athletes who are willing to put themselves at risk for our entertainment. A culture that stems from giving your best for yourself, your family and your community. A community that pays absolute respect towards those that sacrifice and shed blood, sweat and tears for something they believe in. Such as our veterans. A group of people who have very minimal needs and put an extreme amount of effort and focus into their passion. This is the Martial Arts culture, and I value it over every other sports culture you can put against it. NFL, NBA, MLB… Those athletes are amazing in their own right and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for what they do, unless it’s voicing their opinions on a topic they are clearly uneducated in such as politics. The Martial Arts culture, although not as glamorous as being one of the highest paid athletes in the world, will reward most people and their families with benefits for a lifetime.
“Your technique means nothing if you are not using your talents for the betterment of humanity” -Gene Dunn