How Much Money Do MMA Fighters Make?

How Much Money Do MMA Fighters Make?

So, you’re thinking of becoming a pro mixed martial arts fighter someday? 

Sure, you’ve lifted heavy weights, ran countless, grueling miles, ate healthy, and taken countless martial arts and grappling lessons. Plus, you sparred with the best at your MMA gym, and anywhere else you could find a good, formidable matchup.. 

Now, after all that painstaking hard work, you feel you’re ready to give a pro octagon a blood-splattering try. 

Well, how much do MMA make anyway? Is it all worth the effort? How Much Money Do MMA Fighters Make? They are pros, afterall, risking their overall well being in the brutal, relentless combat sports, so they must be pulling down some serious bucks, right? 

For the top fighters, yes, they do make an awesome living. UFC fighters are the highest paid MMA athletes to date. 

For instance, Conor McGregor, arguably the best and most recognizable bloke in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), has brought in approximately $110 million dollars in 2019, according to Sportskeeda.com. Some sources have him clocking in anywhere between the $50 and $100 million mark. 

Nevertheless, that’s a hell of a bankroll any way you slice it.  

In addition to his $85 million in purse winnings, McGregor, 31, claimed $14 million in endorsement deals, plus the rest in other wise investments. Good for him. 

True to form, McGregor launched his own Irish spirits brand, Proper No. Twelve, earlier in 2019, to mixed reviews. But the former two division titleholder’s current UFC contract calls for Proper Whiskey to be an official sponsor during his fights, with its logo plastered in the middle of the octagon’s canvas. So, perhaps, it will have a chance of producing some decent profits. 

But I wouldn’t worry if I was him if the whiskey tanked. McGregor also has lucrative endorsement pacts with the likes of ever-popular Monster Energy Drink and Rebook, which were signed in 2018. And he has appeared in a Burger King commercial as well.  

Moreover, McGregor was smart enough to know that his August 2017 boxing match with pulsegist legend Floyd “Money” Mayweather would land him a hefty payday, as the Irishman made around $85 million, per Forbes. Not bad, not bad, indeed.

But it doesn’t compare to Floyd’s amazing windfall — a whopping $275 million for the “Money Fight,” as it was dubbed, for obvious reasons. Man, I am in the wrong business, but I digress. 

Not only did McGregor and Floyd walk away with piles of cash, the two fighters brought a ton of wide-eyed attention to the sports of boxing and MMA, both of which could use the hype at the time. 

As for other MMA fighters in 2019, the amazing and gifted Georges St-Pierre took home $30 million in earnings, while BJ Penn made $22 million and Rowdy Ronda Rousey sang to the money-making tune of $12 million bucks, according to worthygorilla.com

Rousey did have a successful run in WWE, winning the Raw’s Women’s Championship, and starred in five episodes of 9-1-1, playing Lena Bosko, a firefighter. 

On the smaller scale, skilled fighters like Daniel Cormier and Alistair Overeem took in significantly less, but still fared pretty well. In 2018, Corrmier earned $1,820,000 while Overeem clocked in with $1,720,000. 

Sure, that is unheard of money to the average working stiff (me included), but those are the top MMA guys and gals in the sport. The average MMA fighter doesn’t even come to that type of bank. 

A total of 187 MMA fighters (33% of the UFC) earned six-figures in 2018, per TheMMAGuru.com. Still pretty good, if you ask me. Oh, you’re not? Too bad for me. 

But the NFL minimum salary was $480,000 for a 2018 rookie, while the current MLB minimum is $555,000, both sports with less-to-much less health risk involved, respectively. 

In my opinion, MMA leagues desperately need a union to balance the unequal equation. But hopefully, as MMA takes in more money, the leagues will share some of the profits with athletes who make the sport so appealing. We can only hope, can we?

As you can see, over a third of UFC combatants (213 fighters – 37%) made less than the 2018 United States average household income, which is around $45,000 a year.

I am sure several MMA fighters had to earn additional income by teaching martial arts, as well as work at other jobs to pay the bills. 

But things are starting to look up for MMA fighters, as the popularity of the sport is on a steady upswing as well as its earning potential. 

UFC has over 3.4 million followers on Twitter, making it more recognizable every day. 

Even Hollywood has taken notice, producing movies such as “Never Back Down” (2008), “Warrior” (2011), “The Philly Kid” (2012), and “Here Comes The Boom” (2012) with funnyman actor Kevin James and the beautiful actress Salma Hyeck. 

Furthermore, the average UFC fighter made $138,250 in 2018, an increase from medium earnings of $132,109 in 2017. That’s an $6,141 jump in one year. 

As for less experience UFC combatants, things are a little bit better for them as well. 

Rookie level UFC competitors, under the new Reebok pay structure, with three or fewer fights in the UFC will receive a Reebok sponsorship stipend of $3,500 per fight.

Athletes with four or five octagon fights will earn $5,000 per bout. 

That could pay for some of their minor medical expenses; I said minor. But anything more serious will require them to have better medical coverage, or they could be in trouble if they obtained a simple injury, like a simple broken leg. 

Additionally, take into consideration if they’re out for an extended period of time, costing the fighters potential earnings inside and outside the octagon. It’s hard to work with multiple broken bones and repeated concussions, I’ve heard. 

Previously, both of those categories were encompassed under one sponsorship tier, which paid out $2,500 in Reebok earnings per fight. Sure, a slight improvement, but not enough to keep a young, potentially promising fighter continuing in the unforgiven fight arena. 

But not all UFC parties are happy with this deal.Several mid-to-vetertan fighters have taken umbrage with the Reebok sponsorship agreement because it means they’re not permitted to have any other sponsors on fight night. This Reebok endorsement has caused many of these rough-and-tumble athletes to miss out on a lot of sponsorship cash, leaving them fuming, I’m sure. 

The only time less experienced MMA fighters make more than average is when they come from other sport disciplines with an already established name. Take for instance, ex-WWE wrestler CM Punk and current WWE standout Bobby Lasley, as well as former NFLer Michael Westbrook, who all come to mind. 

These athletes were granted decent paychecks because the sports world already knew of the athletic accolades. 

I’ve only discussed UFC up until this point. What about other MMA leagues? I’m glad you’ve asked me. 

Let’s make no mistake about it, the UFC produces the highest paid MMA fighters, and arguably the best in the game. But other leagues, such as Bellator, also have fantastic athletes who make good livings. 

For instance, Patricio “PitBull” Freire, the current Bellator Lightweight World Champion and two-time and current Featherweight World Champion, took home $200,000 for his five-round decision over Juan Archuleta, who earned $75,000, in the opening round of the promotion’s 145-pound grand prix at The Forum in Inglewood, California, in 2018. 

In addition, Gegard Mousasi and Lyoto Machida grabbed $150,000 each for their headlining middleweight bout, with Mousasi edging Machida via split decision in the same event. 

Other high-earning Bellator athletes include Joe Warren and Amanda Nunes, who earned $100,000 in her UFC fight against Rousey, whom she defeated in just 48 seconds. 

Strikeforce was another top MMA organization that Scott Coker, a South Korean-born American Martial Artist and combat sports promoter, who founded the outfit in 2006. But Strikeforce ceased operation in 2013. 

Strikeforce ‘Carano vs. Cyborg’ 2009 Event was a change of pace for MMA, as the women headlined the card. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos earned $25,000 for her fight against Gina Carano, who was dubbed the face of women’s MMA at the time. 

Though Santos defeated Carano, the raven haired beauty took home a nice payday of $125,000. 

Carano has been another former MMA fighter who has been able to branch off into other areas of entertainment due to her success in the fight arena, as well as her charisma and good looks. 

Carano was ranked 5th on a list of the “Top 10 Influential Women” of 2008. She also acted in the 2011 thriller “Haywire” and “Deadpool” (2016) in which she played Angel Dust — a fictional mutant character in the Marvel Comics Universe. 

In addition, she has modeled, with ESPN The Magazine and Maxim magazine featuring her in its respective magazines. 

Although Carano fight career was relatively short-lived, she amassed a competitive record of 12–1–1 in Muay Thai and a 7–1 in women’s MMA. 

Getting back to Strikeforce’s 2009 event, Renato Sobral lost to Mousasi, but the ladder made $75,000 for his trouble. Other top earners included Gilbert Melendez ($50,000), who beat Mitsuhiro Ishida ($30,000). Fabricio Werdum made $50,000, which included his $25,000 win bonus for defeating Mike Kyle ($14,000). Jay Hieron earned $55,000, which encompassed his $30,000 victory bonus, as surmounted Jesse Taylor ($12,000). 

Strikeforce’s ‘Carano vs. Cyborg’ 2009 Event total disclosed fighter payroll totaled $468,500, according to MMAFight.com

Another MMA outfit was Elite Xtreme Combat, also known as EliteXC, a United States-based organization owned and operated by ProElite. 

EliteXC made a bold move, becoming the first promotion to hold a live event, EliteXC: Primetime, on network television (CBS) on May 31st, 2008, but it folded after just two years of existence. 

It was a good idea in theory, providing an additional opportunity for top fighters to earn decent payouts. Some of the league’s best fighters included unparalleled Jake Shields and the legendary Nick Diaz, whose impressive career netting him a cool eight million dollars. 

The late Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson main-evented EliteXC: Primetime with late replacement Seth Petruzelli, who dealt Ferguson a 14-second TKO loss. 

Nevertheless, the event’s disclosed payroll for the event was $1,319,000, with Ferguson and Andrei Arlovski taking the lion’s share of the money with $500,000 apiece, per MMAJunkie.com. 

There’s no doubt that Ferguson’s internet underground fighting fame made him more markable and helped him grab a half a million dollar fight night payday. 

Petruzelli made $50,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus); Shields took home $50,000, which included his $10,000 win bonus; Carano grabbed a $25,000 ($10,000 win bonus) payday; and Santos claimed $8,000 ($4,000 win bonus) for her bout with Yoko Takahashi, who made $2,000. 

All in all, the prize money wasn’t a bad payout for the competitors, especially Ferguson, who didn’t last long at all. 

As you can see, I believe the sport has a lot of good things to offer its fighters. Sure, could the MMA associations treat it’s athletes better? Of course they can. But the potential for huge payouts is there, especially in the UFC. It’s only growing each and every day. 

In my humble opinion, for some MMA athletes, while making big-time money would be ideal, I am sure the thrill of competing in an electrifying sport they love is worth the effort. It doesn’t matter whether they make huge amounts of cash or not. But I am sure they would appreciate the huge money offerings. I would if someone was trying to take my head clean off my shoulders, or attempting to break a limb off my poor, little body. 

Moreover, like most sports, the better you are at it, the better the chances of earning bigger paychecks are for you. 

Hey, it’s only fair.