MMA Manager – Fighter Sponsorship

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from trying to balance the economy and fighter & team earnings in MMA Manager it’s that actually making enough money to count as successful in MMA is very very hard.  This isn’t elite Soccer players or NBA superstars.  It’s hard working fighters risking their health maybe 3-4 times a year if they’re lucky for our entertainment and not a lot of money.  Even fighters in the Top 10 of their divisions won’t even come close to earning as much for a single fight as most soccer players in the English Premiership or La Liga do in a single week.  As such, every single cent they can make is damn important and one of the main extra sources of income for fighters is Sponsorship.

Before I get onto talking about how we’re handling it in game, here’s a brief roundup of the current state of fighter sponsorship at the top level and why this week’s a good time to talk about it.

If you follow MMA news much, you’ll have seen that this week has been a VERY big week for fighter sponsorship in MMA.  From July onwards, the UFC has an exclusive sponsorship deal with Reebook, as such fighters at UFC events will only be allowed to be wear the provided Reebok gear and will not be able to wear any of the other brand logos that have come to define the look of an MMA event.  No TapOut, no Venum, no Dynamic Fastener, no Affliction, no Torque, just Reebok.  Fight gear will look more uniform, less individual and more in line with uniforms in big team sports such as NFL & NBA.

The UFC itself is selling this as good for the fighters and good for the sport as fighters will no longer look so “NASCAR” with random logos and badges all over their gear.  Which is really an odd choice to me, MMA has way more in common with NASCAR than Baseball/American Football/Basketball.  It’s a hugely popular sport with incredibly loyal and vocal fans and teams that work hard towards success achieved on the day by individual athletes/drivers on the day of competition.  More importantly for the fighters though, it takes away the need to hustle for sponsors or pay managers to do so for them and then chase said sponsors for payment as the Reebok payment will arrive within 10 business days after their fight.

All sounds good right?  Makes life easier for the fighters and guarantees payment, surely that’s better?  There are at least 2 major issues with the new system:

  •  Some fighters & managers are very very good at hustling for and representing their sponsors and as such have been making truly excellent money based on their sponsorship, sometimes doubling or tripling their pay for a fight (MMA Fighting roundup of pros reacting to the pay scales.)
  • The UFC payout amounts are based on the number of fights for a Zuffa (UFC owners) organisation and if you hold or are fighting for a belt.  Even then the numbers are low for both Champions and veterans with the absolute most a fighter can make is $40,000 in sponsorship and you don’t make more than $10,000 until you’ve fought 11 times for Zuffa.
    • A great example here is Brendan Schaub, who has fought exactly 11 times in the UFC and as such will make $10,000 a fight in sponsorship for his next 4.  Schaub states that he’s made at least $100,000 per fight in sponsorship for his last 6 fights.  Assuming he could keep that level up for his next 4, he’d make $400,000 but with the new system will make $40,000.  That’s an incredible hit to your earnings in a sport where longevity really isn’t an option.
    • Another good example is the Flyweight champion and Seattle, Washington resident Demetrious Johnson, hands down one of the best fighters on the planet.  He’s been sponsored for years by a local company you might have heard of called Microsoft, but now he can’t represent them during Fight week or during his fights anymore (link).  If you think he was only being paid $40,000 a fight by MS, think again.

It’s going to be interesting to watch MMA news sites ( I usually read Bloody ElbowMMA FightingSherdog & MMA Junkie) and twitter over the coming months and see how this all works out.  Hopefully with current fighters getting a better cut AND MMA being a more professional looking sport to attract other big name sponsors and make it a better proposition for future fighters to actually make a decent living while doing it.

How We’re Handling Sponsorship in MMA Manager

There’s only 2 of us and we needed a system that’s:

  • Similar to reality,
  • Easy for players to understand,
  • Worth doing for the players, (so we’re perhaps a trifle more generous with the cash than in real life)
  • Straightforward for use to both implement and balance.

So how do we do it?  As with a lot of gamedev over the years, with a bloody big spreadsheet!

First, the spreadsheet: It’s pretty simple, our Fight Leagues are organised into Tiers depending on what rough level of competition and each tier has an amount the sponsor will pay for a fighter to represent them in the game depending on their placement on the card.  Fights on each event follow the fairly standard model of Undercard, Main Card and Main Event with most sponsors offering more cash in that order.

Actual Setup:

  • A column of sponsor names, (Knocked Out, Shyience, Static Zipper, Bit By Bit Games to name a few)
  • A column for their icon names
  • Columns for each tier & card placement

Nothing complicated, all nice and small when exported as a CSV and quick to read in and store in-game.

In-game, sponsorship very much follows the “Manager does the work” model.  It’s not mandatory that you find a sponsor for your fighter, but if you don’t then you’re missing out on a valuable revenue stream for your fighter and the Team.  To find a sponsor, you go to the screen for the fighter you need a sponsor for, click “Find Sponsor” and pick one, simple as that!

The trick is balancing which sponsors give the best value for money and how long a contract you want.

  • Is one fight and renegotiate after the fight a good idea in case your fighter wins or gets the opportunity to fight in a better league?
  • Or do you want to just take a decent offer that lasts for a few fights so you don’t have to micro-manage too much?
  • Also, for all offers it’s worth considering your fighters Rank in the division, is he going to be fighting mostly on the Undercard, Main Card or is he a Main Event star?

If you don’t get your fighter some sponsorship, you can be sure they’ll let you know they’re not happy about it!

sponsor

If you do however, then your Fighter is happy as he’s got more money in his pocket, you’re happy because your Fighter doesn’t bug you as much and your Bank Manager is happy as you’ve more money in the bank.