The Business of MMA: The explosion of OnlyFans in combat sports, UFC 1 trailer, more

Thanks to the global coronavirus pandemic, Bec Rawlings has only fought one time in 2020, and while she’s holding out hope to book another matchup before the end of the year, nothing is guaranteed right now.

After sitting out for the past eight months, the 31-year-old Australian veteran would normally be freaking out about her finances. Even with a regular fight schedule while competing in major promotions like the UFC or Bellator, there are more than a few athletes who essentially live paycheck to paycheck when competing in mixed martial arts.

But Rawlings hasn’t been forced to go into panic mode about her bank account largely because of the OnlyFans page she started earlier this year.

For those unaware, OnlyFans is a subscription-based website where content creators can post photos, videos or even music with fans typically shelling out a monthly fee to see what’s on a person’s page. The site came to prominence over the past couple of years mainly because sex workers began flocking to OnlyFans to not only control the content they were putting out but also to cash in financially after the internet completely changed the adult entertainment industry in recent years.

With YouTube style sites essentially giving away videos and photos for free, many sex workers saw profits plummet. That’s where a site like OnlyFans started to flourish with the subscription-based model where creators are paid out based on the number of people who are willing to pay to see their content.

While OnlyFans was generally recognized for adult content, the site wasn’t explicitly set up strictly for sex workers. Fitness models, dancers and all sorts of other people from various industries began setting up pages through OnlyFans, which then allowed subscribers to pay to see their content.

Rawlings started her page back in January, and she says the benefit to her has been huge, especially with her fight career largely put on hold due to the pandemic.

“Look it’s been a game changer for me,” Rawlings said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I’d be stressing and freaking out right now. I definitely wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in right now if I didn’t start my OnlyFans. I took the plunge and I’ve never really been one to care about what people think or say. I put myself out there and it’s definitely paid off.

“Normally, I’d be freaking out right now if I haven’t fought yet and made some money. So it’s given me an opportunity to make money elsewhere. So it’s definitely saved me during this. It’s been good. I’m enjoying it. I’ve always been good about putting stuff online and with social media so it’s allowed me to get on a more exclusive website where people can pay to see your content and actually make some money off it instead of putting stuff up on Instagram or Facebook and they reap all the benefits.”

To be clear, Rawlings controls every aspect of her OnlyFans page — from the photos and videos to the messages she exchanges with subscribers. She also reaps the benefits when it comes to the money being made from OnlyFans because creators keep 80 percent of the profits made from the site.

“I like having control of everything,” Rawlings said. “I’ve had people say they were thinking of starting one and they ask if someone else will be controlling it for them. Nope, I control everything that I do.

“I like going on there. I like having a choice of what I put out there. I like talking to people. If I want to stop doing it, I can do it. I’m not locked into any contract. I like having freedom and control over my own brand.”

Subscription fees can range with some creators offering a free page where they may sell specific content to followers while others may charge fees that could range from $5 to upwards of $50 a month to access their page. While there is certainly a lot of adult content on OnlyFans, there’s absolutely no rule that says anything posted needs to promote nudity or be overly sexualized.

Musicians like Cardi B have started OnlyFans pages. There are chefs who are dishing out cooking lessons through their OnlyFans pages. Makeup artists host content on OnlyFans to give tutorials and more personalized instruction to fans or potential clients.

Following in Rawlings’ footsteps along with former UFC title contender Jessica Penne, who started her own page at the same time, numerous combat sports athletes and personalities have launched their own OnlyFans pages.

UFC athletes such as Jessica Eye, Claudia Gadelha and Hannah Goldy currently boast pages on OnlyFans. UFC octagon girls Brittney Palmer and Arianny Celeste also have pages set up through OnlyFans. Other fighters like Barb Honchak and Katharina Lehner also boast their own OnlyFans pages.

Former UFC fighter and current PFL athlete Cindy Dandois launched her OnlyFans page after the COVID-19 pandemic forced her gym to shut down, which left her in a tight spot financially. Not only was her gym not able to operate but PFL decided to cancel their 2020 season, which means Dandois wasn’t going to fight until sometime next year at the earliest.

“I lost my gym during this Covid-lockdown, no help from our government and fights cancelled,… leaving me with big financial problems,” Dandois wrote on Twitter back in June. “I decided to make an Only Fans so I can collect the money to re-open the gym and give the youngsters their home back.”

For her part, Rawlings is glad to see other athletes taking advantage of a money making opportunity like OnlyFans, which can serve as an alternate source of income when fighting just isn’t paying the bills.

“I think it’s cool to see other fighters and especially athletes embrace the site and hustle on something that we can,” Rawlings said. “We can’t tell the future and with the pandemic, we don’t know when we’re going to fight and so this is a way to set yourself up and have another source of income. It will be interesting to see what kind of content people are offering and if they stick around.

“I think it’s definitely something everyone need to embrace. It’s good for the sport, it’s good for the fighters and it’s good for the fans to have a different kind of contact and support for the fighters.”

After initially launching in 2016, OnlyFans has exploded in popularity with more than 30 million registered users on the site with approximately 450,000 content creators.

Actress Bella Thorne recently launched her own OnlyFans page and reportedly raked in over $2 million in a single week on the site. Of course, the 22-year-old former Disney star also landed in hot water after charging some subscribers excessive fees for photos that were teased for nudity yet contained none and irate fans began demanding refunds.

That ultimately forced OnlyFans to change the amount fans can “tip” content creators as well as how payouts are made but still there’s a lot of money potentially being paid out.

While Rawlings obviously wasn’t going to share her bank statements, she says the amount of money she’s made from OnlyFans has really kept her family afloat during the pandemic.

“I’m definitely not Bella Thorne level at all but I’ve made some decent money,” Rawlings said. “It’s definitely been worth it, especially with the criticism that’s come with it like ‘oh this is what MMA has come to’ like we’re stooping to some level and it’s not that at all. It’s your choice what kind of content you put on your profile. I think people just naturally assume the worst.

“Of course when they see other stuff on that kind of site, they assume that’s what we’re posting on there. It’s definitely been worth it. I’ve made some great money on there.”

One prominent MMA manager, who requested anonymity when speaking to MMA Fighting, said that one of their athletes was able to take home between $15,000 to $25,000 in a single month from their OnlyFans page.

Not everyone will bank that kind of money obviously but Rawlings has no complaints about the earnings she’s taken home after launching her own page on the site. She’s not going to tell anybody to follow in her footsteps but Rawlings makes it clear that she’s enjoying her time on OnlyFans as well as the financial benefits the site has granted her.

“I definitely have more freedom on there to post what I want and not dealing with the nastiness and hatred,” Rawlings said. “That’s what I find on Twitter and Instagram. People go out of their way to comment hateful stuff. They’re not a fan. They’ve just come across my picture and decide to be an asshle. With OnlyFans, people are paying to see your content. So if they’re paying, they’re a fan and they want to see your content. It’s a lot nicer experience. They’re not paying a $20 subscription fee to talk sht to me.

“I haven’t had a negative experience yet. If it got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying it or wasn’t enjoying interacting with people, I would leave. I enjoy it. I enjoy interacting with people on there. I enjoy the money. I don’t see the harm in doing it.”