Home UFC fighter says EA Sports pays athletes by their popularity

UFC fighter says EA Sports pays athletes by their popularity

Demetrious Johnson, a former mixed-martial arts champion who fought in the UFC, recently offered insight as to how that promotion’s stars are paid for the use of their likeness in EA Sports’ video game. According to Johnson, the more players who use a fighter, the more that star gets paid.

In a video clip shared on X, Johnson says he once received a $25,000 check for appearing in the EA Sports UFC series, which launched in 2014.

It’s an interesting claim because the Ultimate Fighting Championship performers are part of a group license entitling Electronic Arts to use them in their MMA games. It’s also unusual because $25,000 is well more than most payouts — under a group licensing arrangement — to players in other sports, including professional football, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association.

Johnson was the cover star for the “Icon Edition” of EA Sports UFC 3, which launched in 2018.

Johnson says he was given an email from Electronic Arts that referred to “sufficient telemetry data from player usage” indicating “fan engagement and fighter popularity” resulting in the payout.

It’s also interesting because most athletes appear in sports video games under a group license sold by their player’s associations, or unions. (UFC competitors are contracted to and represented by the league itself). While some athletes cut individual deals (especially in the case of those appearing on the box cover of a game) most take a standard royalty check distributed through their union.

The other interesting detail is how the payment was based on games telemetry, which should tell gamers how much EA Sports, and therefore other publishers, know about their preferences and tendencies in video games.

EA Sports UFC 5, the latest game in the series, launched in October 2023 for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

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Owen Good
Gaming Editor (US)

Owen Good is a 15-year veteran of video games writing, also covering pop culture and entertainment subjects for the likes of Kotaku and Polygon. He is a Gaming Editor for ReadWrite working from his home in North Carolina, the United States, joining this publication in April, 2024. Good is a 1995 graduate of North Carolina State University and a 2000 graduate of The Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, in New York. A second-generation newspaperman, Good's career before covering video games included daily newspaper stints in North Carolina; in upstate New York; in Washington, D.C., with the Associated Press; and…

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