How Much Do UFC Fighters Make Per Fight?

The answer to the question of ‘how much do UFC fighters get paid’ is actually more complicated than it would initially appear. While the highest-paid fighters make impressive salaries, up-and-coming fighters can still struggle to pay their bills.

Unlike other sports organizations like the NBA or MLB, the UFC doesn’t have big agents that target rookie fighters. UFC fighters also don’t have a union or fighters’ association to leverage any collective bargaining power.

The lack of bargaining power means that many rookie fighters don’t have any help in financial negotiations, which means overall lower salaries. Many fighters tough it out, hoping to make it big, but with gym fees, travel, and training costs, their expenses can quickly outweigh their winnings.

Unfortunately, most of the money in UFC is at the top of the food chain, with very slim pickings for fighters at the bottom, with around 37% making less than the average American household yearly income (1).

So how much does a UFC fighter make? We’ll attempt to answer that question below.

How Do UFC Fighters Earn Money?

UFC fighters don’t just make money from fighting. Popular fighters have many other avenues to get paid, including sponsorships and endorsements. These can greatly affect an athlete’s income throughout the year. Unfortunately, only the best of the best can rely on endorsements to make extra money.

Related: How to become a UFC Fighter

It’s important to note that most athletic commissions don’t report a UFC fighter’s pay. While we can make educated estimates based on reports by the UFC and athletes themselves, these may not always be 100% accurate.

According to a poll looking at fighter salaries from 2012 – 2015, around a third of all fighters’ incomes came from non-disclosed discretionary pay, side agreements, or pay-per-view points (2). Almost every fighter received a performance bonus of some sort, and these bonuses are often under $10,000 for preliminary fighters. In comparison, fighters on the main card received between $0 and $50,000, with a mean average of $4,600.

Base Salary

Most fighters get a large portion of their money from a salary paid by the UFC. This salary often gets paid out fight-by-fight, and is open to negotiation, depending on the fighter’s performance. Rookie fighters often make significantly less than their more famous counterparts.

For instance, Nate Diaz only received $20,000 for his fight against Michael Johnson, which was before his spectacular win over McGregor (3). Once he’d shown his chops and became popular, he was able to up his base salary to $250,000 for his fight with Pettis.

According to reported salaries, around 36% of fighters, 214 in real numbers, earned six-figure salaries in 2019, up from 33% in 2018. However, the bottom 37% of fighters made less than the American household income of $45,000 per year. This shows the huge disparity of earning potential for UFC fighters.

The 18 men and women that had UFC championship belts in 2019 earned just under a million dollars ($974,028 to be exact) in salaries, before counting any other bonuses, endorsements and sponsorships.

Win bonuses can make up a huge portion of a fighter’s yearly income. The UFC negotiates these win bonuses on a case-by-case basis and mainly targets large payouts for lower-ranked fighters. UFC fighters payouts from win bonuses range between double the base salary to nothing, depending on the fighter.

Using our previous example of Nate Diaz, he received a double win bonus for his fight with Johnson and ended up taking home $40,000. However, once he got more popular, his win bonus dropped away. In the Pettis fight, he didn’t have any win bonuses in his contract whatsoever.

Sponsorships

In 2015, the UFC signed a contract with Reebok, making it the exclusive sponsor for UFC fighters. This contract prevents fighters from signing up with any other companies; they can only have Reebok sponsorship.

This controversial decision resulted in many UFC fighters receiving tiny sponsorships per fight, ranging from $3,500 to $40,000. The UFC decides the amounts based on the number of fights the athlete had in the UFC.

How Much Do UFC Fighters Make Per Fight?

The answer to the question of ‘how much do UFC fighters get paid’ is actually more complicated than it would initially appear. While the highest-paid fighters make impressive salaries, up-and-coming fighters can still struggle to pay their bills.

Unlike other sports organizations like the NBA or MLB, the UFC doesn’t have big agents that target rookie fighters. UFC fighters also don’t have a union or fighters’ association to leverage any collective bargaining power.

The lack of bargaining power means that many rookie fighters don’t have any help in financial negotiations, which means overall lower salaries. Many fighters tough it out, hoping to make it big, but with gym fees, travel, and training costs, their expenses can quickly outweigh their winnings.

What this means is that how much a UFC fighter makes in a year, or per fight, depends a lot on how many fights they’ve had, how popular they are, and how many fights they win. That’s not even counting sponsorships or endorsements, which can make fighters huge amounts of money.

Unfortunately, most of the money in UFC is at the top of the food chain, with very slim pickings for fighters at the bottom, with around 37% making less than the average American household yearly income (1).

How Do UFC Fighters Earn Money?

UFC fighters don’t just make money from fighting. Popular fighters have many other avenues to get paid, including sponsorships and endorsements. These can greatly affect an athlete’s income throughout the year. Unfortunately, only the best of the best can rely on endorsements to make extra money.

It’s important to note that most athletic commissions don’t report a UFC fighter’s pay. While we can make educated estimates based on reports by the UFC and athletes themselves, these may not always be 100% accurate.

According to a poll looking at fighter salaries from 2012 – 2015, around a third of all fighters’ incomes came from non-disclosed discretionary pay, side agreements, or pay-per-view points (2). Almost every fighter received a performance bonus of some sort, and these bonuses are often under $10,000 for preliminary fighters. In comparison, fighters on the main card received between $0 and $50,000, with a mean average of $4,600.

Base Salary

Most fighters get a large portion of their money from a salary paid by the UFC. This salary often gets paid out per fight, and is open to negotiation, depending on the fighter’s performance. The majority of fighters often make significantly less than their more famous counterparts.

For instance, Nate Diaz only received $20,000 for his fight against Michael Johnson, which was before his spectacular win over McGregor (3). Once he’d shown his chops and became popular, he was able to up his base salary to $250,000 for his fight with Pettis.

According to reported salaries, around 36% of fighters, 214 in real numbers, earned six-figure salaries in 2019, up from 33% in 2018. However, the bottom 37% of fighters made less than the American household income of $45,000 per year. This shows the huge disparity of earning potential for UFC fighters.

The 18 men and women that held UFC championship belts in 2019 earned just under a million dollars ($974,028 to be exact) in salaries, before counting any other bonuses or endorsements and sponsorships.

Win bonuses can make up a huge portion of a fighter’s yearly income. The UFC negotiates these win bonuses on a case-by-case basis and mainly targets large payouts for lower-ranked fighters. UFC fighters payouts from win bonuses range between double the base salary to nothing, depending on the fighter.

Using our previous example of Nate Diaz, he received a double win bonus for his fight with Johnson and ended up taking home $40,000. However, once he got more popular, his win bonus dropped away. In the Pettis fight, he didn’t have any win bonuses in his contract whatsoever.

Sponsorships

Sponsorships are one of the main ways athletes make money, with many companies competing to land top athletes. If you’re a fighter with the UFC, however, you have to make do with a forced Reebok sponsorship instead.

In 2015, the UFC signed a contract with Reebok, making it the exclusive sponsor for UFC fighters. This contract prevents fighters from signing up with any other companies; they can only have Reebok as their sponsor.

This controversial decision resulted in many UFC fighters receiving tiny sponsorships per fight, ranging from $3,500 to $40,000. The UFC decides the amounts based on the number of fights the athlete had in the UFC.

UFC lightweight contender Dustin Poirier attempts to secure an armbar on a training partner.
The Reebok deal stands as one of the most controversial decisions of the UFC’s short history.
Photo credit: aetc.af.mil

Fight Night Bonuses

Besides win bonuses, the UFC also has official and undisclosed bonuses. The official bonuses are the ‘fight of the night’ bonus and the ‘performance of the night’. Both fighters from the fight of the night earn the $50,000 bonus, with another two fighters each winning performance of the night bonus. One person can sometimes win two bonuses for a total of $100,000 on top of their salary.

The second type of bonus is the ‘backroom bonus’, which is an open secret in the UFC (4). Unfortunately, since these figures don’t get disclosed, there’s no way to know how much fighters can earn from these unofficial performance bonuses.

Finally, some of the most popular mixed martial arts fighters also get offered pay-per-view (PPV) points per headlining appearance. These points translate into a portion of the pay-per-view earnings of a fight going to the relevant fighter.

These fighters can make a significant income, especially as the popularity of the UFC continues to grow, and more people tune in to watch the fights.

Endorsements

Endorsements are similar to sponsorships, but take place outside the sphere of the regular UFC fighters pay scale. Some of the best-known UFC endorsements include McGregor and Burger King, as well as Brian Ortega and Modelo.

Endorsements are a great way for companies to bring their brand to the attention of UFC fans. Endorsements benefit both the fighters and the company, but typically only apply to the most popular UFC fighters.

The Highest Paid UFC Fighters in 2019

When it comes to reported salaries and performance bonuses, 2019 was a year of plenty for Khabib Nurmagomedov. He reportedly earned just over $6 million throughout the year, according to the MMA Manifesto. He massively outpaced everyone else in the pack, with second place Alistair Overeem only earning $1.7 million in the same year.

Total earnings in 2019 according to salary and bonus reports:

1Khabib Nurmagomedov* $ 6,090,000
2Alistair Overeem* $ 1,730,000
3Donald Cerrone* $ 1,300,000
4Anderson Silva*$ 1,290,000
5Max Holloway* $ 1,220,000
6Israel Adesanya* $ 1,098,000
7Amanda Nunes $ 1,080,000
8Jon Jones $ 1,080,000
9Jorge Masvidal* $ 1,032,000
10PFL Champions $ 1,000,000+

The picture changes a bit when you look at total earnings throughout a career. McGregor still holds the top spot, and Nurmagomedov still has a way to go to catch up to the overall highest-paid UFC fighter.

Below are other high paid UFC fighter and their assumed earnings, but if you’re interested in learning about the GOAT based on skills, check out this list of the best MMA fighters here.

Conor McGregor

As of 2020, McGregor is still the only UFC fighter to break eight-digit earnings in the UFC. His estimated total earnings of $15.2 million are in large part due to his last five fights, which all paid seven-digit salaries.

His last four fights earned him just over $3 million each, earning him a cool $12 million in just four years. His potential rematch against Nurmagomedov promises to be his most profitable fight yet. Check out Conor Mcgregor’s full fighter profile here.

Alistair Overeem

Alistair Overeem may not command the same type of salary as McGregor, but his consistency and dedication have paid off. His debut against Brock Lesnar earned him just under $400,000, and he’s had 16 more fights since then.

His last six fights have earned him more than half of his total UFC career salary. At the moment, Overeem receives around $800,000 – well above the average UFC fighters salaries.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov has been a UFC staple since 2012, where he made his debut against Kamal Shalorus. He’s been a regular contender ever since, as the current UFC Lightweight Champion. His earnings started to take off in 2019, where his last two fights earned him just over $6 million, bringing his total to $8.3 million at the beginning of 2020.

His controversial post-fight brawl with McGregor’s team at UFC 229 led to a fine of $500,000, which barely put a dent in his earnings for the fight.

UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov takes Conor McGregor down in the UFC 229 main-event.
UFC 229: Khabib Vs. McGregor was the highest-selling UFC PPV event of all-time.
Photo credit: Bruce Detorres, Flickr

His controversial post-fight brawl with McGregor’s team at UFC 229 led to a fine of $500,000, which barely put a dent in his earnings for the fight. As Nurmagomedov continues to be popular with the crowds and the hint of a McGregor rematch on the cards, 2020 looks like a promising year for this rising star.

Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva may be near the end of his career, but he should be very proud of his $8.1 million earnings. He started earning six-figure paychecks from his fourth fight onwards and peaked at $820,000 against Brunson at UFC 208.

Michael Bisping

Michael Bisping fought 29 UFC fights, earning him a total of $7.1 million. He only started making six-figure salaries after his ninth fight, where Dan Henderson knocked him out. Bisping went on to secure the Middleweight Title and made his biggest payday at UFC 217 against Georges St-Pierre.

GSP

Georges St-Pierre has had a long and storied history with the UFC, starting as a young fighter in 2004. He’s held numerous titles and earned $2,580,000 in his comeback fight against Bisping. He ended his career soon after, netting $7 million in total during his career at the UFC.

Jon Jones

Despite being the fighter with the most title-fight UFC victories (including wins over the likes of Daniel Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson, Lyoto Machida, and Rampage Jackson), Jon Jones tends to earn less than more popular fighters like Nurmagomedov and McGregor. He’s earned $7 million to date, with plenty of fights still left in the tank. Jones tends to get between $580,000 and $590,000 every fight, and at 32 years old, his earning potential is huge.

Mark Hunt

Mark Hunt got on the UFC radar after his exciting fight with Brock Lesnar at UFC 200. Since then, he’s had five fights, each earning him over $700,000 per fight. He’s starting to command higher salaries, with his latest fight against Lewis netting him $810,000, bringing his total earnings to $6.3 million to date.

Donald Cerrone

Donald Cerrone has fought 34 times in the UFC and has signed a contract for at least six more fights in the future. The fight that contributed almost a third of his total earnings was at UFC 246, against McGregor. He lost within 40 seconds but earned $2,200,000 for the privilege.

Junior dos Santos

Junior dos Santos is a consistent fighter, which is reflected in his steady salary. Out of 21 fights, 16 have paid out a six-figure amount, earning him just under $6 million to date. His biggest pay-out came against Stipe Miocic at UFC 211, where he earned $830,000.

The Highest Paid Fights in UFC

Unsurprisingly, McGregor features prominently in some of the highest-paid fights in UFC history, including:

How much do UFC fighters make? Conor McGregor takes questions from the media after his career-high UFC 189 payday.
Conor McGregor headlined five out of the six highest-drawing PPV events in UFC history.
Photo credit: Andrius Petrucenia, Flickr

Other high-paying fights include:

Other high-paying fights include:

Final Whistle

While it would be nice to have a solid answer to the question, ‘how much do UFC fighters make?’, the answer is a lot more complicated than you’d think. While several prominent fighters have made millions in UFC salaries alone, several factors complicate things even further.

Like many other athletes, UFC fighters make much of their money outside of their official UFC salary. The bigger the name, the bigger the endorsement deals, and the more likely they’ll get sky-high salaries per fight. There are also performance bonuses, pay-per-view earnings, and off-book payments that muddy the water even further.

According to the MMA Manifesto, the average UFC fighter made $146,673 in 2019, with 37% making six-figure incomes from salary and bonus pay-outs alone (5).

However, over a third of UFC fighters don’t even make the American national average in terms of income. Travel fees, training costs, and staff payments can quickly eat into any post-fight earnings.

While it’s unreasonable to expect every fighter to earn McGregor levels of money, the UFC is still far behind other sports leagues when it comes to ensuring fair compensation for all their athletes, regardless of experience and ranking.

Sources

  1. https://thesportsdaily.com/2019/12/30/2019-ufc-fighter-salaries-complete-list-fox11/
  2. https://www.bloodyelbow.com/2016/9/29/13040024/ufc-fighter-pay-union-association
  3. https://www.sportscasting.com/a-breakdown-of-how-ufc-fighters-get-paid/
  4. https://www.reddit.com/r/MMA/comments/9wnt9u/israel_adesanya_and_dan_hooker_discuss_ufc/
  5. https://thesportsdaily.com/2019/12/30/2019-ufc-fighter-salaries-complete-list-fox11/

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