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David

Should UFC Fighters Get Paid More?

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Spinning off a discussion surrounding Jon Jones and now Jorge Masvidal on fighter pay, I thought this deserved a topic on its own.

Question is, should fighters be paid more? It's easy to just say "yeah," but I think there's a bit more to be looked at before coming to a conclusion.

So, here's my viewpoint based on the limited info that us plebs have on the matter.

UFC fighter pay tiers

Looking at the current fighter pay scale it seems to me that the rule of thumb is as follows:

Tier 1

At the top of the tree is Conor McGregor, unsurprisingly. He made a flat $3 million base pay for his fights with Cowboy, Khabib and Eddie Alvarez. He also gets a share of the PPV spoils.

Second as far as earnings go of late is Khabib Nurmagomedov, who made $2 million base against Conor, and a whopping $6 million flat to face Poirier, although I think the location of that event had a part to play in that payday. Khabib was clearly the guy that the UAE wanted on the card, and they paid top dollar for him.

Tier 2

Taking those two outlier fights out of the equation, Khabib made $530,000 when he fought Iaquinta for the title, which seems more comparable with the UFC model. Will he go back to earning that kind of money when he returns? It'll be interesting to see, and if he doesn't, it'll add fuel to the fire that Jones and Masvidal are looking to start.

With all things being equal, I think the second tier below Conor and the odd exception is the $500,000 category, and this includes the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington & Nate Diaz along with some champions like Jon Jones, Israel Adesanya, and Kamaru Usman.

So in this bracket we're looking at the champions of the lightweight mens division and above, along with the bigger names who don't hold a title, like Colby Covington, Nate Diaz and masvidal.

Tier 3

This looks to be anywhere from $250,000 to $350,000 base per fight.This is where the lighter weight champions come into play, such as Max Holloway, Alexander Volkanovski & Henry Cejudo. It's also where the female champions are to be found, with the likes of Amanda Nunes clearing $350,000. We can also find fringe-names like Yoel Romero here, clearing $350,000 for his last few fights.

There's also the odd exception "name" fighter on the back-end of his career who is still on decent coin, like both Alistair Overeem and Jose Aldo who clear $400,000 base for their fights.

Tier 4

The fighters in this bracket can vary wildly from earning as little as $20,000 to fight and win to earning as much as $150,000. 

PPV Points

An interesting point of conversation, and after the UFC Anti-Trust lawsuit it's easier to get a decent idea of what that PPV points means in dollars.

So, apparently it works something like this: Fighters get $1 for every PPV sold between 200,000 and 400,000. They get $2 for every PPV sold between 400,000 and 600,000. And they get $2.50 for every PPV sold over 600,000.

As I mentioned in the other thread, an example would be Masvidal who took home the following for his bout with Nate Diaz:

Going on the basis of UFC 244 selling 925,000 buys, Masvidal would have received 200,000 x $1, 200,000 x $2, and finally 350,000 x $2.50. 

That's a total of $200,000 + $400,000 + $875,000. So, on PPV points alone Street Jesus took home $1.475 million.

Add that to his disclosed base pay of $500,000 to fight and $20,000 fight week appearance money and Masvidal earned $1.995 million for his fight with Nate, before taxes and any other bonuses he would have gotten from Reebok or other shit like that.

That's decent coin.

It's easier to see now where Conor makes his money. His bout with Khabib, for example:

$3 million base pay to show and fight, and a PPV points breakdown like this:

$200,000 x 1, $200,000 x 2, and $1.8 million x $2.50. That comes to $200,000 + $400,000 + $4.5 million. Totals up to $5.1 million from PPV revenue alone. Chuck in his $3 million base pay and he's taking home $8.1 million from base and PPV revenue.

I'm sure he makes a bit more than that through other means, but I've long believed that the number McG throws out there are vastly over-inflated. Still a decent wedge though.

Expenses

I've read the article in The Athletic about fighter expenses such as training, taxes, travel and so on. In all honesty, I don't know what they expect the UFC to do in that regard. Taxes and travel are a cost that have to be covered. Do they want the UFC flying them all out, paying for training camps and covering tax as well? 

It's not ideal, but if a fighter is good enough and marketable enough they'll rise through the tiers I've documented above. Sure, not everyone is a Conor McGregor, but it's possible for a good fighter to make $1 million-plus in their fights.

Conclusion

There's certainly more the UFC can do for fighter pay, but at the same time it's up to the fighters themselves to make themselves marketable. I hate using McG, but he's a great example. Without his talk and non-stop shilling of himself he's easily a $500,000 fighter at best, and most likely a $350,000 fighter at this point. 

Fighters need to get themselves into a position where fans are willing to pay cold, hard cash to watch them fight. It's crazy to complain about money but then do nothing to make yourself marketable. The company need to be making more money off you in order to pay you more.

It's the fighters in the 4th tier who need the most help in my opinion. I'd like to see a minimum fighter base pay of $50,000 per fight to show, with another $20,000 or so to win.

The problem there is that if the UFC did that they'd be cutting a whole lot of fighters who simply aren't worth that kind of cash, and we'd see guys and girls given less opportunity to rebound from losses. You'd see someone go on a 2 fight skid, the company figure there isn't much chance of them making it to the top two tiers, and they cut them loose.

Maybe we'd get higher quality cards and fights though?

I think the answer for the top guys complaining is to throw them PPV points on the regular when they main event a card. Masvidal? PPV points for your fights when you main event a card. If you're as valuable as you think you are it'll show in the numbers. If fans don't buy in numbers you'll earn fuck all.

 

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That's a hell of a post, Dave, and there's a lot to think about that I agree with. For the moment, though, I'll say that, whilst I agree that fighters should do their best to make themselves marketable, I think it's used far too often by promoters and their buddies to justify not doing the job they claim to be doing. The promoter's job is to promote. I know they organise the logistics, but when you're taking that size of a share of the money, you probably should put the graft in on the PR side of things too.

Say there's an elite-level fighter who doesn't have much of a personality, and it's not his fault that he can't do much with it. Why should he suffer for that? He's spent his limited time, money, and energy, not to mention risking his well-being, training to be a great fighter and earn money via that route, not to be a great PR machine. That's what promoters get paid for, it's why they exist. More than that, it's what they get paid not just the lion's share for, they get most of the fucking pride's share.

Again - you're right that fighters should try and make the promoter's job a bit easier by being more engaging and personable if they can. But if they can't, then the promoter's mindset should be "Alright - this guy can't do much outside the cage, but bloody hell, he's good. If we want to make some money, we're gonna have to put a shift in and make awesome vignettes, posters, Countdowns, and whatnot, to get the marks to part with their cash."

Look at what happened with Nunes/Rousey. Whoever called the shots on the promotion for that should've been fired, or at least demoted. In any other company, that would've been a mis-step that'd get you called into the boss' office. Nunes isn't a marketer's wet dream like Rousey was, but she's still got a shit-ton in the locker they could've worked with. 

I know it's all idealist and that, but when I consider the UFC model in depth, it seems designed to make the promoter as much money as possible without ever incentivising them in any meaningful way to try and make money for their fighters. If anything, it encourages them to drag their heels, because they don't want their fighters to get "above themselves" and ask for a bigger slice of the pie.

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31 minutes ago, Carbomb said:

That's a hell of a post, Dave, and there's a lot to think about that I agree with.

Cheers chief, I appreciate that. Took a little bit of work.

32 minutes ago, Carbomb said:

For the moment, though, I'll say that, whilst I agree that fighters should do their best to make themselves marketable, I think it's used far too often by promoters and their buddies to justify not doing the job they claim to be doing. The promoter's job is to promote. I know they organise the logistics, but when you're taking that size of a share of the money, you probably should put the graft in on the PR side of things too.

I absolutely agree that the UFC could do more to promote their fighters, but the truth is that 95% of fighters just aren't going to draw enough interest to warrant being paid the big money. 

In fairness, I actually have to hold my hands up and say that when a fighter does the work and gets some traction, very rarely does the UFC fuck it up. They push them, and reward them.

Case in point, Jorge Masvidal. 

The guy fought Wonderboy Thompson at UFC 217 in November 2017. It was the 2nd fight on the PPV segment of the event, and Masvidal lost his second fight in a 2-fight skid. He came in with his bland as fuck haircut, looking like any number of fighters on the card:

26JQo3F.jpg

He got paid $66,000 to show, and got $15,000 Reebok cash. Total for the fight? $81,000.

Fast forward two years almost to the day. He's beating Nate Diaz in the main event in New York, winning the BMF title and having it handed to him by The Rock. He takes home a cool $1.995 million minimum.

The difference? Obviously, he'd won some fights. But he'd also went from the bland looking fucker in the picture above to this:

 1fBcWmW.jpg

That's something the UFC can push. He's taking what he has to work with and making shit happen.

You know I'm as big an advocate for fighters to be recognised purely for their skills more than anything else, but it just isn't that way. If Masvidal had sat back and waited on the UFC to market him he'd still be cleaning up $80,000 per fight, maybe hitting six figures now and then.

So yeah, the UFC needs to do more for sure, but the fighters have to give them something to work with.

1 hour ago, Carbomb said:

Say there's an elite-level fighter who doesn't have much of a personality, and it's not his fault that he can't do much with it. Why should he suffer for that? He's spent his limited time, money, and energy, not to mention risking his well-being, training to be a great fighter and earn money via that route, not to be a great PR machine. That's what promoters get paid for, it's why they exist. More than that, it's what they get paid not just the lion's share for, they get most of the fucking pride's share.

Those fighters don't suffer though. If you're talking an elite fighter like a Wonderboy Thompson, for example, he took home $460,000 when he challenged T-Wood for the title the first time around, and $360,000 the second time for a losing effort.

At that time he was a top contender in the division, but as great a fighter he is he's doing nothing but coming in, being polite, fighting, then going home. The UFC can't do anything with that, and that's fine. Thompson is happy to make what he does for the effort he puts in.

Truth is, if someone is good enough to win a world title between 155lbs and heavyweight they'll be taking home $500,000 per fight regardless of how boring they are. 

They need to give the UFC something worthwhile to push, and more importantly, something the fans will get caught up in. 95% of the fighters just don't do that.

1 hour ago, Carbomb said:

Again - you're right that fighters should try and make the promoter's job a bit easier by being more engaging and personable if they can. But if they can't, then the promoter's mindset should be "Alright - this guy can't do much outside the cage, but bloody hell, he's good. If we want to make some money, we're gonna have to put a shift in and make awesome vignettes, posters, Countdowns, and whatnot, to get the marks to part with their cash."

They have done that when they can. Anderson Silva is a good case in point. They pushed him as a matrix-like fighter, but outside the cage he spoke like my little cousin's 17 year old girlfriend and was as pleasant as they come.

Unlike WWE, I can't really think of any times where I've saw a UFC fighter and thought "man, he's a star in the making if only the company got behind him."

Apart from the uncrowned king Jon Fitch, of course.

1 hour ago, Carbomb said:

Look at what happened with Nunes/Rousey. Whoever called the shots on the promotion for that should've been fired, or at least demoted. In any other company, that would've been a mis-step that'd get you called into the boss' office. Nunes isn't a marketer's wet dream like Rousey was, but she's still got a shit-ton in the locker they could've worked with.

You think so? The company promoted Rousey and the event sold 1.1 million PPV's. Rather than be fired I think whoever called the shots deserved, and probably received, a nice little bonus for a job well done. 

Like it or not, UFC is a product geared primarily towards male broski's who live in the western world. That's who's laying down their $60 or whatever to see a PPV, and they ain't tuning in to see a gay Brazilian girl who can't talk great English and who looks handier than most men on that card.

They're tuning in to see the hot blonde chick from The Expendables, who posed nude on the cover of ESPN magazine and who can actually kick ass in real life. The call to focus on Rousey was absolutely the right one to make at the time. She was the star. 

1 hour ago, Carbomb said:

I know it's all idealist and that, but when I consider the UFC model in depth, it seems designed to make the promoter as much money as possible without ever incentivising them in any meaningful way to try and make money for their fighters. If anything, it encourages them to drag their heels, because they don't want their fighters to get "above themselves" and ask for a bigger slice of the pie.

I disagree. 

The current model could certainly be improved, mostly at the bottom end of the card where fighters can make very little, but the UFC doesn't make money unless their fighters do well. The UFC love nothing better than Conor McGregor shifting 2 million PPV's, because it makes them a lot of coin. McG is handsomely rewarded for his role in that. Same with Nate Diaz, or Jorge Masvidal, or even Jon Jones.

As I said, I think that more fighters should be awarded PPV points for events they main event. It would incentivise them to really go all out to promote themselves, which in turn gives the company more to work with. 

I know we rag on the UFC and Dana a lot of the time, and most of it's warranted, but the truth is, if a fighter sells PPV's and draws interest, they're getting paid.

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3 hours ago, David said:

You think so? The company promoted Rousey and the event sold 1.1 million PPV's. Rather than be fired I think whoever called the shots deserved, and probably received, a nice little bonus for a job well done. 

Like it or not, UFC is a product geared primarily towards male broski's who live in the western world. That's who's laying down their $60 or whatever to see a PPV, and they ain't tuning in to see a gay Brazilian girl who can't talk great English and who looks handier than most men on that card.

They're tuning in to see the hot blonde chick from The Expendables, who posed nude on the cover of ESPN magazine and who can actually kick ass in real life. The call to focus on Rousey was absolutely the right one to make at the time. She was the star. 

Sorry to miss out the rest of your post, but I've gone and overbooked my evening, and this kind of thread will probably dovetail into way more than we expected. Although, in fairness, I take your point on most of it.

However, this bit - I was more talking about building up Nunes for afterwards, rather than the PPV in isolation. By focusing solely on Rousey, and making absolutely nothing of Nunes, they basically got the golden goose for one more egg and then fucked it. Given how Nunes is basically a bantamweight Cyborg, they could've marketed her in the same way.

I can only offer anecdotal evidence here, but I can tell you I did meet at the time a number of women, both martial arts enthusiasts and casuals, who were very enthusiastic about Rousey's fight, citing her as the prime reason they were tuning into the UFC for that PPV. She'd been built up as this positive, groundbreaking woman martial artist in a male-dominated sport (despite being a bully, a homewrecker, a Sandy Hooker and a wanker). Even my sister, who's not really into MMA, tuned in for her.

Given that Nunes is the only one of those two who's continued to have a career, and a hell of a career at that, becoming the first UFC women's two-weight champ, the woman to retire Rousey, the first to beat Cyborg in yonks and conclusively, and the first gay UFC champ, I still feel that the UFC promotional machine could've done a lot more than they did to give her a higher profile, and continue to retain the women's and LGBTQ+ share of the market.

 

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Decent points Carbomb but Amanda Nunes is headlining her own PPV tonight, she'll be doing just fine financially, especially for a female MMA fighter, she'd built herself up pretty well over time.

It aint as simple to say just because Nunes beat Rousey, Nunes should take the star mantle and run with it. The Rousey/Nunes fight was always going to be about Ronda Rousey. The worst thing the UFC did was match her up against a killer like Amanda Nunes, Rousey should have came back against in a much easier. They fed hed to the lions (pun intended). 

Rousey was a one off as an attraction. 

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6 minutes ago, Egg Shen said:

The worst thing the UFC did was match her up against a killer like Amanda Nunes, Rousey should have came back against in a much easier. They fed hed to the lions (pun intended). 

That wasn‚Äôt what the UFC thought they were doing at the time though. Who was it on Rogan‚Äôs podcast a while back who said actual UFC execs saw Nunes¬†as nothing but ‚Äúcannon fodder‚ÄĚ for Rousey‚Äôs big triumphant comeback? Nunes wasn‚Äôt meant to be where she is now.¬†They thought they were feeding Nunes to Rousey as a stepping stone to set up that big Cyborg fight in 2017. Remember¬†this was late 2016, when they were still insisting on Cyborg making 135. Her first few fights in the UFC were Catchweight at 140. I know the popular opinion is that Dana would never have let Ronda¬†vs Cyborg happen but if there‚Äôs one thing Dana loved more than Ronda it‚Äôs money. And Ronda vs Cyborg was one of the only truly big fights the UFC had on the horizon for 2017.¬†Funny how things work out because Cannon Fodder Mandy ended up crushing them both in a combined 90 seconds or so.

0-B93-BEE8-3290-4-D94-8-AE6-02-A761-F321

If women’s MMA was Cell Block H, Nunes is taking over and everyone’s paying her protection money. 

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Masvidal is the exception to the rule when it comes to the UFC's major drawing cards. Unlike McGregor, Jones, and Khabib, he isn't, and never has been, an elite level fighter. He isn't a top 3 welterweight. Usman, Wonderboy, and Covington would all beat him (imo). 

Whatever can be said about McGregor, he was once the best featherweight on the planet or close to it. He's not yet been exposed at lightweight or welterweight to the point where it has had a negative effect on his drawing power (the Khabib loss was somewhat excusable). Once he loses again, and I expect he will soon, his drawing power will suffer, regardless of how charismatic he is. Jones is a overrated fighter in my view, but even I have to admit he's been the best light-heavyweight on the planet for a decade or so. Khabib is currently the lightweight champion and probably the best fighter on the planet (well until Gaethje beats him ;)). 

Masvidal certainly became more marketable by changing his appearance. But it was the freak jumping knee knockout and Askren being the perfect foil that transformed him into a drawing card. The UFC then booked him in a bout against an opponent who he matched up with very well and promoted it beautifully. I found the BMF stuff corny as fuck, but it certainly had the desired effect as most fans lapped it up. However, once Masvidal inevitably loses to a Usman or Covington, he will probably slide down the card a bit and his drawing power will diminish. It's all been a bit of a perfect storm for him, and one that others would find difficult to replicate. 

What I am getting at it is rare you get a fighter that is both marketable and the best in their division. It is therefore difficult for the UFC to push someone into becoming a star. And just as difficult for mid-tier fighters to market themselves to the point where they become box-office attractions. Good booking and self-promotion obviously does help enhance a fighter's status, but they can only do so much. For example, if the UFC had it their way, Cowboy Cerrone would probably be their welterweight kingpin due to his undeniable charisma. Yet, the reality is that he isn't quite good enough to be champion, regardless of how favourable the UFC's matchmaking is towards him. Thus, he remains a popular gatekeeper. A fan favourite, sure, but not someone who draws massive PPV numbers or sells out stadiums. 

Whether the UFC could have done more to market some of the fighters who had long title reigns - Mighty Mouse, Nunes, etc - is another debate. Personally, I don't have a strong opinion one way or another on that one. 

Edited by jimufctna24

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35 minutes ago, wandshogun09 said:

That wasn‚Äôt what the UFC thought they were doing at the time though. Who was it on Rogan‚Äôs podcast a while back who said actual UFC execs saw Nunes¬†as nothing but ‚Äúcannon fodder‚ÄĚ for Rousey‚Äôs big triumphant comeback? Nunes wasn‚Äôt meant to be where she is now.¬†They thought they were feeding Nunes to Rousey¬†

maybe its revisionist history speaking then with regards to Nunes' form, but even so, it goes against Carbomb saying that Nunes should have been promoted as a 135lb Cyborg. It was all about Rousey.

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1 hour ago, Egg Shen said:

Rousey was a one off as an attraction. 

The audience who bought Rousey's PPVs were mostly new viewers. 

I'm not sure if that audience still follows MMA now that she has retired. 

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17 minutes ago, Egg Shen said:

maybe its revisionist history speaking then with regards to Nunes' form, but even so, it goes against Carbomb saying that Nunes should have been promoted as a 135lb Cyborg. It was all about Rousey.

I think I've probably been a bit unclear here - it's not that I think they should've promoted her over Rousey for that match, it's more that they should've promoted her at least a decent bit, being, y'know, the actual champion, and then, after she beasted Rousey and Cyborg, pushed her as the 135 Cyborg. Or, as she now also holds the 145 belt, Cyborg 2.0. I get that she isn't doing all that badly, but it does strike me that, for someone who's done everything that she has, Nunes seems to be really undersung. They pushed Rousey as unstoppable. They pushed Cyborg as terrifying. Nunes smashed them both. Maybe I'm not watching enough of the fluffery-buffery promo stuff, but it doesn't feel like they're doing all that much with her.

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Echo the praise for your opening post, David.

Another way of looking at this is 48-50% of NFL, MLB and NBA revenue goes towards paying their players, while UFC (with their reported $900M revenue) pay their fighters just 15-16%. I appreciate the three sports I mentioned have significantly higher revenues but that doesn't mean, in the future when all is well (more on that), there can be at least some wiggle room. They were also rumored to be paying $300M in dividends to their investors this year ($150M going to Endeavour) before the pandemic, while the fighters scrap it out for their shared $150M pot. Can they afford to pay the fighters more, Clive? Yes. Will they? Probably not. I think David's point that it's the lower ranked fighters that are getting shafted most is good.

Something is definitely happening behind the scenes, now that Conor has (once again) called it quits. It was reported last month Endeavour had to cut a lot of staff or cut their wages by 50%. The company are also looking to raise $250M to off-set the losses they've felt since show business has been put on hold for a few months. NYP reckon they were relying on and budgeted for that $150M pay out but it got cancelled due to the uncertainty of UFC's future. With that in mind, it makes a little more sense that UFC are penny pinching more than ever. Dana boasted on the Hearn podcast that none of his fighters are receiving pay cuts, but David's post shows how hidden that sort of thing is. I wouldn't be surprised if show money is still the same but all those hidden bonuses, which make the difference, are being squeezed.

Edited by ColinBollocks

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On 6/6/2020 at 1:34 PM, Carbomb said:

Say there's an elite-level fighter who doesn't have much of a personality, and it's not his fault that he can't do much with it. Why should he suffer for that? He's spent his limited time, money, and energy, not to mention risking his well-being, training to be a great fighter and earn money via that route, not to be a great PR machine. That's what promoters get paid for, it's why they exist. More than that, it's what they get paid not just the lion's share for, they get most of the fucking pride's share.


While that's fine in theory, you have to take into account that some fighters are complete and total idiots when it comes to promotion. Take one particular elite-level fighter who doesn't have much of a personality and has been a complete and total box office failure - one Demetrious Johnson.
 

https://www.mmafighting.com/2017/4/16/15317204/fight-conor-mcgregor-15-title-defenses-demetrious-johnson-aims-high

Dude, I will fucking fight Conor McGregor for the biggest payday of my life. If I get knocked out, perfect. Thanks, Conor. You weigh 170 pounds, but guess what? I’m going to be laughing all the way to the bank.



How is basically saying "I've got no chance of winning, but be sure to spend your fifty bucks on the PPV" promoting a fight? I seriously doubt McGregor honestly thought he had any chance of beating Floyd Mayweather (unless he really does 100% believe his own hype, which is possible), but he didn't say it. If Dana White is drawing up a list of names to fight McGregor, I'm thinking potential box office revenue comes much higher than someone deserving a fight based on who they've beaten or whatever. If you've managed to kill potential interest in the fight before he's even drawn up his list, you're probably not going to be on it.

Promoting a fight is absolutely the job of a promoter, but it's also something a fighter can help with. All it takes is the fighter, or their team, to ask the question "how can I help you to promote this fight?"

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In all honesty, didn't know DJ said that. That's bloody stupid. He was one of the immediate examples I had in mind when I first posted; he's not a natural PR guy, and I just thought it was off that one of the best P4P guys in MMA and the longest-reigning champ in the UFC couldn't command a bit more respect from White and co. But there's a difference between being not good at something and being actively bad at it. That's something a promoter in fact has to work to salvage! The least a fighter can do in this regard is not make the job more difficult, even if he can't help make it easier. 

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