What should MMA fighters do with their money? Advice from a veteran

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Young fighters who aim to make a living fighting are obsessed. They only think about training and improving. A very small percentage of fighters earn enough money to survive purely on fighter scholarships without having another source of income.

Not everyone can “make it rain” like Conor McGregor.

Most fighters have to work a second job or even two jobs plus training to make ends meet. I worked full time as an English teacher from the time I graduated from college in 2005 until 2013 when I joined The Ultimate Fighter 18.

What if you were finally successful and won between $20,000 and $50,000 for a fight? Should You Buy Everything You Ever Wanted? Should we go to Europe? Should we put everything in the bank and spend nothing? I have a few ideas.

Disclaimer: I am not an educated financial planner. However, having started and then ended my fighting career, there are some things I recommend young prospects keep in mind to help their wallets go further and help them prepare for life after the fight. .:

  • Make a monthly budget
  • Live a little but not beyond your means
  • Get everyone’s business card and make lots of contacts
  • Have a backup plan
  • Invest

make a budget

It was my dad who sat me down and taught me how to make a budget. Even if your budget is negative, which means you spend more than you earn, creating an overview and list of expenses helps you know where your money is going.

Pick up a notebook for a dollar at Walmart and write down the costs of rent, utilities, transportation and training. Keep receipts for a few weeks or check credit card bills to get an average of your weekly or monthly food budget.

When I first quit my job in Japan and moved to the United States for The Ultimate Fighter, my budget was negative. Seeing this on paper has helped me to be really frugal and figure out how to minimize the damage this has done to my savings in my bank account.

Live within your means

One of my teammates spent part of his first UFC paycheck on a motorcycle so he didn’t have to cycle to the gym every day. After being signed to the UFC, I could afford to live on my own rather than sharing with others. I also bought canned Smuckers strawberries instead of the store’s cheaper brand.

You could be forgiven for spending some of your money on luxuries. It’s nice to wake up and feel that your surroundings are much better than in the past. But don’t make the mistake of ruining everything all at once.

When I lived in Japan and worked full time, I never traveled or took vacations. I figured I should save my vacation days from work for fights. I wouldn’t have to spend a lot to be able to survive for a while if I ever quit my job to fight full time.

Roxanne Modafferi punches Raquel Pennington at The Ultimate Fighter 18 in November 2013 (Photo via Getty Images)

Looking back, I ended up doing just that, and had enough money accumulated to last a few years. However, I wanted to go to Korea or Thailand and never ended up going. I could have gone to Thailand and not spent too much money. I should have, it’s important to make memories that you can keep for the rest of your life.

As a related point, try to put money in the bank. A nest egg goes a long way in reducing the stress of unexpected expenses. You might have medical bills, vehicle repairs, a sudden return home for a family emergency, etc. It’s good to invite someone to dinner.

Getting into the habit of gradually depositing funds is very helpful. When I worked in Japan, I tried to put aside a few hundred dollars per paycheck, and over the years, it piled up.

I’m glad I did all those things and sacrificed a bit. By the time I returned to the United States, I had a good cushion to pay the rent when I only had a trickle of income from a part-time job.

Have a backup plan

It’s hard for a fighter to “think about his future after fighting” when he puts his heart and soul into the fighting game. However, it is worth thinking about a backup plan. It’s a good thing to have when participating in one of the most risky and physically challenging sports in the world.

For full time fighters, I recommend having at less three backup plans for your life if you don’t fight. A job you actively love and enjoy. The second job would be something that is just “good”, you would be happy but not ideal. The third activity should be something you don’t want to do, but are willing to do to survive.

For me, it would be like working for the UFC, teaching English and jiujitsu, and finally entering the public school system.

Part-time teaching English as a second language in July 2022 (Image provided by author)

Why should you write them down and stick these ideas in a box now? What if one of the plans involved time and you had to start now? For example, you need to get a degree, you might want to take courses bit by bit to eventually get that degree.

Make lots of contacts

Right now I teach jiujitsu in different gyms other than where I trained MMA. I kept in touch over the years and was hired by other instructors who remembered me and liked me.

When fighters are on the road, they have to chat with sponsors and business owners. You never know if you’d be invited back for a seminar or maybe find another business opportunity with someone you hadn’t guessed.

I found a job in an elevator. I fought in Japan in 2005. Back at the host hotel after the event, my trainer and I started chatting with a businessman. Turns out he ran an English school and gave me his business card.

When I left university, I contacted him, who put me in touch with the company’s HR. They interviewed me and hired me! We never know! Keep people’s business cards and take notes.

Invest your money

Investing is also a good idea. Things like low-risk mutual funds, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and real estate. Again, I’m not a financial expert, but you should seek one out to know where to put your money.

I own a small condo that I rent out and put my UFC title fight money into an IRA and mutual funds. (They’re tanking right now, but my advisor tells me they’ll come back up eventually).

I am happy to have been well guided, so I am above all satisfied with my situation. I finished my MMA career with money in the bank that will last a while. I’m pursuing my second job choice and enjoying it.

I’m happy to have options that I’m mentally prepared for. I have lots of contacts and people I’ve met over the years, and I’m easily reachable on social media. I just wish I had gone to Thailand when I was living in Japan.

Maybe one day.

Roxanne Modafferi: UFC Pay 1 Fighter


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