There’s plenty of punishments that an athlete can receive in professional sports. They can be benched for a game, suspended by an athletic commission, lose a sponsorship or maybe even be declared a public enemy by the fans. You get the point.

But the best way to get somebody’s attention is to hit them where it hurts. Their pocketbook.

That’s what we saw on Monday when the UFC decided to fine its longtime middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, for welshing on his media obligations.

We see it often with MMA fighters complaining about the promotional side of the sport. They have to stand around a group of strangers doing interviews or make promotional phone calls and give the same old spiel about their upcoming fight. After a certain point it becomes ad nauseum for all involved. The fighter is just as tired of hearing the same thing being repeated over and over again as the journalist and readers are.

But as long as the fighter shows up to do the media work, they’ve already won half of the battle when it comes to their pre-fight duties. Before they know it, their promotional work is over and they hope that they did some good for themselves by turning a few heads and putting some extra butts in seats.

However, Silva didn’t feel that way about Tuesday’s planned media event. He decided to forget that mess and caught a plane back to Brazil, leaving all those in anticipation of his presence holding their hat in their hands. And he did so to the tune of a $50,000 fine after the UFC learned of his departure.

So instead of the usual round of pre-event build-up intended to coincide with the approach of the UFC 162 event that Silva would be headlining, we got headlines that Anderson Silva is a no-show.

It’s infrequent that we see the UFC having to step in to punish its fighters over such matters that end becoming their own news stories, but once in a while it has to be done to maintain order.

An example came last month, when the UFC suspended and fined heavyweight Matt Mitrione for his incendiary comments about transgender fighter Fallon Fox. The amount of the fine was never released, but one has to guess that it was fairly substantial given how quickly an apology came. For fighters like Mitrione who aren’t headlining UFC pay-per-views or signing any Nike endorsements, such an economical blow over misconduct is substantial.

But that begs the question, can someone like Silva, who’s in a position as one of Zuffa’s top draws, afford to do what he wants and get away with it?

Now, we have to put this into perspective. Most of the highest-level fighters in MMA are not even in the top-100 list for highest-paid athletes by Forbes’ standards. On average, the highest-paid UFC guys are making a few hundred thousand dollars just to show. Silva earns $200,000, not including his lucrative endorsement deals and pay-per-view revenue cut, just to walk to the cage. His no-show fine makes up a quarter of what he’s usually earning on fight night, which is a fairly significant figure.

We can estimate that Silva is bringing in low millions each year, so the amount he was fined isn’t going to set him back as a major economic loss. Still, in the world of professional sports, that kind of yearly income doesn’t make him a kingpin in any sense of the word, even if he is the sport’s current GOAT. When we compare Silva to any of the 100 athletes that topped Forbes’ highest-paid list from last year, we’ll see how other major sports dwarf MMA when it comes to greenbacks.

It was two representatives of combat sports that topped the list, but both were boxers—Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Those guys earn over $40 and $50 million dollars in a single fight, respectively. If they were fined anything under a million for not showing up to press events, they wouldn’t even feel it. That’s why you have a fighter like Mayweather running around town like he’s the king of the world. Because when you have enough money to no longer worry about any of life’s problems or how the public will perceive you, then you’re living the American dream, baby.

The same could be said of Silva’s neglect of his media obligations. Here we have the sport’s best fighter and one of its top earners. Those two traits alone are enough for him to act as he pleases with minimal backlash, because he understands that a no-show infraction won’t stop people from watching his next fight. If he wasn’t in the mood to spend an irksome day with the press, no big deal. It’s not like we’re talking about a Tiger Woods-level scandal here.

Nonetheless, the bigger issue here is how this makes Silva appear like a prima donna, and that’s a fine line to walk in the world of MMA.

For some guys, it works out. Just look at the careers of Nick Diaz and Chael Sonnen, both of whom have done plenty of wrong in their careers, but ended up being some of the most rewarded figures in the sport of MMA. The difference between them and Silva is that they aren’t long-reigning champions in the sport’s biggest promotion nor are they the epitome of MMA greatness. Silva is, and that’s why everyone watches when he graces the Octagon. So when he messes up by missing a scheduled press event, it’s important that he is made an example of for everyone underneath to understand that he’s not untouchable (at least outside of the cage).

He’s not getting paid tens of millions of dollars to show up and fight, but he’s making a good amount from advertisers such as Nike by being the cream of the crop in cage fighting. Still, guys like Silva aren’t common in this sport. There are only a handful of fighters that are making good money. The disparity in pay between the top MMA athletes and top athletes from other sports is apparent, and all too much so for the guys like Mitrione who wish they could get a piece of that “Anderson Silva money.” But when guys screw up on any side of the scale, at least they are being duly punished for it.

MMA fighters, however big or small, aren’t getting paid like athletes in other sports, but at least they are being treated the same when it comes to punishment. You could say this seemingly insignificant episode with Silva is another example of how MMA has continued to grow up in the sports world.

Photo: Anderson Silva (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.