MightyMouse Recalls UFC Giving Incentives to ‘Whoever had the most traffic’ on Social Media

Demetrious Johnson reigned supreme in the UFC during some evolutionary years regarding fighter promotion.

During his seven-year run with the UFC, “Mighty Mouse” made history that may never be broken. 11 consecutive title defenses broke former middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s previous record of 10 in 2017 and further solidified Johnson as an all-time great. Unfortunately, exposure and maximum fight finances were always an uphill battle.

Johnson, 37, notoriously had his qualms with the UFC when it came to promotion and drawing ability atop the flyweight division. The dominant nature of Johnson’s run was to such a degree that he eventually was told the division would get shut down entirely. As a sign, several names started departing the roster over time.

Currently the ONE Championship 135-pound flyweight champion, Johnson remembers how the UFC honed in on fighters expanding their reach online. At best, incentives superseded entry-level fight contracts, according to the legend.

“When Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook first came out, the UFC would bring us to the ‘Fighter Summit’ and say, ‘You guys need to build your brand. It’s free. It costs you nothing. The more people want to see you fight, the more money you’re going to make because you’re going to make money in pay-per-view points, etc., etc., if you become a champion, if you become a partner,’” Johnson said on his YouTube channel. “The UFC was very good about doing that. Back then they would send you laptops. Back then they’d give you incentives, I think it was like quarterly. Whoever had the most traffic in their thing. First person would get $25,000. It would go like $12,000 then $5,000, maybe $1,000.

“They’d give us a lot of incentives to talk about the fights and boast it, and they kept on doing it for I think a year or two. Fast forward to what it is today, I think they’ve seen the payoff of them slowly investing in telling the fighters to do that.”
The UFC held Fighter Summits from 2009 to 2011. Although the start of the gatherings was before the UFC absorbed WEC, both entities were under the Zuffa umbrella which allowed for all fighters to join in on the festivities, including Johnson who arrived in WEC in 2010.

In the middle of this period, Chael Sonnen was in the prime of his career as he became a middleweight title scene fixture starting with his Hall of Fame caliber matchup against the aforementioned Silva. Speaking with Johnson on the topic, Sonnen noted how he was bewildered by the comparison of his social media incentives to his UFC debut purse against Renato “Babalu” Sobral at UFC 55 in 2005. Sonnen claimed he made $5,000 in an eventual Twitter bonus while only making $2,000 after his second-round triangle choke loss.

Cain Velasquez had also just become a champion in the middle of the Summit years. The newly-minted heavyweight title holder was a prime example of what the promotion hoped others could become, recalled Johnson. At the end of the day, he never viewed the experiment as a negative.

“I’ll never forget at the UFC Fighter Summit they pulled a picture of Cain Velasquez and were like, ‘You see this man? This man is Mexican-American. We are trying to break into the Mexican market so we want this man to do very, very well. You need to follow this man’s footsteps and try to get your community behind you. That way, it brings more eyeballs to the sport,’” Johnson said.

“I always tell my friends and my wife, any check I can get without getting punched in the face is a good check. It’s a good check because I’m getting paid for not me being in the gym, training hard, and fighting, but by me being a personal persona and going to shake some hands, doing whatever it may be.”