Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Winning wasn’t Jessica-Rose Clark’s main goal at UFC Vegas 11. Win or lose, she wanted to enjoy herself in the octagon.
She also looked forward to paying some bills.
Clark checked her bank balance on the morning of this past Saturday’s event and saw she was down to the wire – a $17.70 balance. She’d spent much of 2019 recovering from a foot injury and lost her only fight that year. A booking against Sarah Alpar was her first chance to make some cash in 2020.
“I got into this industry knowing I wasn’t going to make a lot of money, so it just made me happy, knowing that no matter how the fight went, whether I won or lost, I was about to get paid,” she told What the Heck. “I’m trying to send my dogs to get trained properly, I’ve got to do some repairs on my car, I’ve got a bunch of stuff that I need to pay for right now. It didn’t give me any anxiety. I was just happy that I had a paycheck coming, regardless.”
Fighting for the second time in the octagon as a bantamweight, Clark had a great night at the UFC APEX. She soundly out-struck Alpar and didn’t lose focus when referee Chris Tognoni curiously restarted the bout after an apparent fight-ending knee. With just 39 seconds left in the fight, Tognoni saved the bloodied Alpar after a flurry of strikes.
Afterward, Clark said her social media mentions lit up with colleagues praising her performance. Clearheaded at 135 pounds, where she could avoid a brutal cut between 15 to 17 pounds to fight at flyweight, she felt she’d shown off the best version of herself. A post-fight bonus surely wasn’t out of the question, she thought. She started rationing the extra money.
“I thought I was shoo-in,” Clark said. “The elbows I was throwing and the technique I was showing, I thought for sure I was getting it.”
But when four $50,000 checks were handed out by the promotion for “Fight of the Night” and “Performance of the Night,” Clark’s name wasn’t on one of them. Disappointed, she tweeted a photo of that bank statement. It quickly went viral.
A bonus would have been nice Uncle Dana.
I’ll do better next time ♀️ #UFCVEGAS11 https://t.co/2KIZ4lQS1b pic.twitter.com/8H4MCPBF14
— Jessy Jess (@missjessyjess) September 20, 2020
Sitting outside three days later on a sunny day, Clark wasn’t sad or angry. But she said the snub definitely stung in the moment.
“I was bummed out,” she said. “I’d already made plans, like if I got a bonus, that would help so much, because being injured last year and then losing, like, I think I made $16,000 for the entire year, plus had a ton of medical bills to pay. So it was like, getting a bonus, especially after the year is almost over now, would have been amazing.”
Speed was rewarded by the UFC in bonus recipients, with three of the four winners – Khamzat Chimaev, Mackenzie Dern and Randy Costa – earning first-round stoppages.
“I thought I maybe should have got it over Khazmat, whatever his name is, because he got a 17-second knockout. Like, yeah, that’s cool, but they didn’t fight,” Clark said. “He threw one punch and finished him. I’m like, ‘C’mon man, I actually fought for 14.5 minutes.’
“Whatever, it’s cool. It’s was a little more, that feeling of maybe [getting] one this time, it’s given me a little more drive right now, seeing what I could do and feeling that maybe, I think that’s only going to create better performances in the future.”
The Nevada Athletic Commission no longer discloses fighters’ show and win purses, and Clark didn’t say how much she made in total on Saturday night. But it likely was around double what she made in her previous showing.
Whatever the case, the number Clark sees on that bank account is much better than it was before. But the fight was a turning point for the 32-year-old fighter.
“It’s definitely a band-aid,” she said. “I need to come up with some external forms of revenue, because the last two years have shown me that I can’t make a living off of fighting. Like, that’s a fact, especially if I get injured and I have to take another year off, I get no income from the UFC. I have some plans and ideas of how to create other forms of revenue. That just kind of solidified it.”
Clark is mum for now on what she plans to do next. First, she’ll visit the doctor to see if a knee injury she aggravated in the fight is anything serious. She is interested in a fight with Bea Malecki or Tracy Cortez, who are scheduled to meet next month on Fight Island.
In the meantime, she’s got another bill to pay. On Sunday night in Las Vegas, thieves stole a $500 solar panel on the roof of the camper van she calls home. She’s not mad about that, either.
“I had to laugh about it, because I’m like, this is so ridiculous,” she said. “And then they cut my wiring really nicely, disconnected it. They took care of everything else, I’m grateful for that. They didn’t destroy my whole setup. They just cut off the wiring and disconnected the plugs and went off with my solar panel.
“If someone went to all that trouble, they can have it. Everything happens for a reason. There’s obviously a reason someone stole my solar panel. They must have needed it more than I do.”
A lot of fans didn’t like what she had to say about her bank account. Like other fighters who’ve complained over pay, she was accused of not taking responsibility for her own actions.
Clark, though, isn’t having that. She isn’t looking for any handouts, and she isn’t taking any flack.
“People are so ridiculous,” she said. “It’s like they think that because you’re not going to have any face-to-face interaction with me, you can just say whatever the f*ck you want. But I like to hold people accountable for their words as much as I can.”
After a tough year, some therapy, and a new weight class, Clark just might be hitting her stride. And if she gets some good news from the doctor, she can build on what happened in the octagon. She’s also hedging her bets with a side hustle.