With the end of year, three day UFC extravaganza that happened over the course of the weekend, it was obviously dominating the headlines.
Conor McGregor and José Aldo took centre stage of an action packed three days for the UFC, so it’s no surprise other MMA news had taken a backseat. There has however been some very interesting and potentially large news which has also had much attention this past week.
The talk has been regarding a fighter who has recently fought out his contract. Former UFC Lightweight champion Benson Henderson’s current UFC deal has now expired, and he has stated he is open to testing the market.
So where does this leave the former champ?
In this article we can hopefully determine Henderson’s worth to the company.
As a starting point we will compile what Benson has achieved and his disclosed pay thus far with the UFC:
- UFC Record: 11-3
- Tenure with the UFC: 56 months
- Highest Ranking: Champion
- Titles: 1, Lightweight
- Title Wins: 4
- Title Losses: 1
- Events Headlined: 10
- Current Salary: 48k base, 48k win bonus
- Current Reebok Sponsorship Pay Scale: 15k
- Highest Salary: 110k base, 110k win bonus
- Total Earnings: 676k base, 470k win bonus, 165k performance bonus, 15k Reebok – Total: 1.326mm
What’s interesting to note is the number of events Henderson has headlined in his time with the UFC. A total of ten events out of his fourteen UFC fights. It seems relevant we should look at the viewing figures that Henderson has been drawing, in order to try and determine in what sort of company of fighters he is in. First let’s break down the viewing figures for each event Henderson has headlined.
- UFC 144 Edgar vs Henderson – Buy Rate 325k
- UFC 150 Henderson vs Edgar – Buy Rate 190k
- UFC on Fox 5 Henderson vs Diaz: Peak 5.7m, Average 4.4m
- UFC on Fox 7 Henderson vs Melendez: Pk 4.7m, Avg 3.7m
- UFC 164 Henderson vs Pettis – Buy Rate 270k
- UFC on Fox 10 Henderson vs Thomson: Pk 4.4m, Avg 3.2m
- UFC Fight Night 42 Henderson vs Khabilov: Pk 1.5m, Avg 1.2m
- UFC Fight Night 49 Henderson vs Dos Anjos: Pk 962k, Avg 689k
- UFC Fight Night 60 Henderson vs Thatch: Pk 1m, Avg 913k
- UFC Fight Night 79 Henderson vs Masvidal: Pk 970k, Avg 796kk
Given the figures, Henderson has an average buyrate of 262k on PPV events. In regards to PPV buy rates this puts him in a similar region to both Renan Barao (251k) and José Aldo (230k). When Henderson has headlined a non PPV card his peak average is 2.74m with an average average of 2.12m. These figures put him above such fighters as Frankie Edgar (870k peak, 826k average) and Lyoto Machida (1.85m peak, 1.22m average)
For my money, that actually puts Benson in a very solid position. He drew better average numbers for PPV buys over both Barao and Aldo. Along with drawing better peak, and average numbers for non PPVs than both Edgar and Machida.
Taking into account what each of those fighters earns, Benson is in a position to ask for a far better salary. Here are said fighters current salaries:
- Renan Barao – 76k base, 76k win bonus
- José Aldo – 120k base, 120k win bonus
- Frankie Edgar – 140k base, 140k win bonus
- Lyoto Machida – 200k bonus, no win bonus
It’s worth mentioning that Aldo was still a champion up until 3 days ago (his salry also rose to 400k for the McGregor fight) so his salary could be discounted for comparison, although I will provide an average with and without.
The average, with Aldo’s salary included, amounts to a base salary of 134k. The average, without Aldo’s salary amounts to 138.6k.
Edit: After Fridays event, Frankie Edgar’s disclosed pay has now risen to 180k base, along with a 180k win bonus.
For me, Henderson’s situation is in some ways, and could prove to be more so, comparable to when Gilbert Melendez was open to testing the market. Bellator offered Melendez a deal but ultimately he re-signed with the UFC, earning himself a coaching gig on TUF – I’d love to see Henderson, John Crouch, and the MMA Lab guys pitted against someone like Rory MacDonald and the guys at Tristar, or even Tyron Woodley and the Roufusport guys again – and a deal which included the lowest ever reedemable points on a PPV buy rate in the UFC’s history.
Obviously this is an avenue that is open to the UFC if they take into consideration Benson’s viewing figures. He could fit in very nicely as a co main event on any PPV card with a single title fight. Possibly on a future McGregor card, given he had already appeared below him, when he was the co main on the non PPV Boston event back in January, drawing 3.6m at peak and 2.75m as an average.
Just some things you would hope the UFC considers when determining Benson’s value.
In summary, given Henderson’s tenure, success, ability, and willingness to fight in multiple weight classes, along with short notice bouts, he seems like a fighter who the UFC would be chomping at the bit to keep. Those factors mentioned previously, along with the sort of verifiable numbers Benson is drawing, it seems well within the realm of possibility that his services could amount to such a comparable sum. It all just comes down to how the UFC factors in those numbers, if at all.
I for one, hope he stays.
photo credit: marvel.com, fcfighter.com and sherdog.com