MMA fighter salaries have exploded in recent years as the UFC has gone from the brink of bankruptcy to a thriving sport of world fame. Fighters used to get in the cage for pride and few dollars. Now they’re jumping in the cage for pride and $millions. Even number ten on out list of richest MMA fighters have earned a whopping $12million. Not bad given where the sport was in the nineties.
A Summary of MMA Fighter Salaries
Let’s start at the top. The richest MMA fighter on our list is worth a cool $25million and all the fighters in the top ten are pulling in salaries with eight digits. Work your way down the list and the popularity of UFC means that televised fighters are picking up six figure salaries for a few annual appearances in the cage. Away from the big screen, second tier fighters can look to earn $10k to $50k a year, dependent on how many times they fight and how successful they are in the cage. The official MMA average salary stands $34,400 but that includes the huge contracts for the richest MMA fighters. So those far down the rung are looking at something smaller than a Domino’s delivery boy.
Why are top MMA Fighter Salaries So Big?
Rewind 20 years and not many people wanted a piece of the UFC. It was all boxers biting off ears and overpaid pansies in supposed contact sports. But since the turn of the millennium, MMA has gone from forgotten fringe sport to a supreme financial triumph. MMA fighters have seen the biggest percentage raise in salaries out of any sport since the year 2000. So the richest MMA fighters are no longer just rich for their sport, they’re up there with the top athletes from many world sports. It’s not quite reached the level of boxing, but the richest MMA fighters are now easily rivaling football and soccer stars. And after the drab none-event of Mayweather Pacquiao, the gap might continue to narrow. If that was the fight of the century, then boxing is on its way out. Popularity equals money in sport. More people want to watch MMA and more people will shell out for PPV. And that money has been spiraling the richest MMA fighters to $multimillion salaries.
How does a MMA Fighter Make Money
As you scroll through our list of richest MMA fighters you might be surprised at some of the inclusions. This isn’t about the best MMA fighters, it’s about those that can pull in the audiences and make the huge bucks. To understand how they make their money you have to split up what happens in and out of the cage.
In the Cage
MMA fighters are paid for each time they go in the cage. Different fighters will have different contracts. At a lower level, MMA fighters are paid for each individual fight, with their appearance fee increasingly dependent on their popularity and success. The richest MMA fighters tend to sign multi-fight deals, meaning they’re committed to a certain number of bouts within a particular time frame. For every fight there’s a fixed appearance fee, kind of like a base salary. On top of that, the richest MMA fighters are able to negotiate cuts on the gate money. All the fighters slugging it out on pay-per-view will also be picking up a cut of the global TV revenue. It’s these figures that really push salaries into the stratosphere. Some of the fighters aon our list of the richest MMA fighters are pulling in over 1million global PPV viewers. Which is huge money.
All this is just for appearing. MMA fighters will also receive bonuses dependent on the outcome of the fight. The two universal bonuses are for winning the bout and scoring a knockout. At a lower professional level, these bonuses can dwarf the appearance fees, meaning it’s not just pride on the line, it’s a guy’s livelihood. The differences aren’t as pronounced at the highest level but the richest MMA fighters are also picking up prize money for continuing to hold championship titles. For example, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones ranks number 11 – just outside our list – despite getting dropped by all his sponsors. He’s earning everything in the cage.
Out of the Cage
MMA fighters are now celebrities and they’ve finally managed to garner some global recognition for their sport. Back in the 90’s, big brands didn’t want to be associated with MMA. Now they can’t get enough of it. Most pro MMA fighters will have endorsement deals. At a lower level these might be from local sponsors. The top guys have huge endorsement deals with players like Nike, Gatorade, and even Burger King, especially those like Anderson Silva who become one of the biggest athletes in their native country. These deals are based on their success and visibility. Nike isn’t interested in a guy who spends 364 days a year in a secluded Siberian training camp. They want athletes who are constantly in the media and in the cage, guys who are always showing off the little Nike tick. So as lower level MMA fighters get recognition they fall into the eye line of bigger and bigger sponsors. And there’s a fine line between good press and bad press. Misdemeanors and controversy out of the cage can mean a contract getting cancelled. It can also mean a contract bonus as the fighters generate publicity.
The Ten Richest MMA Fighters of All Time
FightState has compiled net worth to reveal the rundown of the richest MMA fighters of all time. Read through to see who’s been making their money in the cage and who’s been generating huge net worth outside the cage.
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