How much money do MMA fighters make? Well, it depends! The amount of money a fighter can earn depends on their record, age, style, marketability, and how often they fight. However the most significant factor is the organisation to which they are signed. For professional MMA the pay range is goes from $1k to $3 million dollars.
The UFC is the largest and most successful MMA organisation. As a result of their global TV deals and sponsorship they can afford to pay higher salaries. Outside of the UFC Fighters can still earn good money but the average pay is significantly lower.
However being signed to the UFC does not guarantee a fighter riches. Even in the UFC the starting base salary is surprisingly low for the effort, skill, and dedication that is required. While some UFC fighters earn millions of dollars, many others do not earn more than $30K a year.
The Average MMA salary
Based on available information it was estimated that UFC fighters were paid an average of $141k in 2018 (excluding bonuses and sponsorship).
However this figure is skewed by the much greater salaries commanded by the top 1% of the athletes in the UFC. If we remove the top 10 athletes from the list, this average drops to $107K. It is also worth noting that this list is based on the salaries of UFC fighters who are the highest paid MMA fighters in the world.
The median figure gives us a better picture of a UFC fighters annual salary. In 2018 the median UFC salary was $73k. Outside the UFC we have estimated the average salary per fight is less than $20k based on available info.
Highest UFC salary 2018: $3M
Average UFC Salary 2018: $10k
Median UFC Salary 2018: $73k
Average Salary outside UFC: $20k
How MMA fighters get paid
The exact payment structure for an MMA fighter depends on the their contract and the promotion. In the UFC and Bellator a fighter will typically receive a base salary which they are guaranteed to make for showing up on the night.
In addition they will usually also get a win bonus as per their contract. Usually the win bonus is equal to the base salary.
E.g: $40k to show, $40k win bonus.
A contract may cover a number of fights. The exact level of pay depends on lots of factors including their placement in the rankings, previous record, and whether or not they are headlining or have previously headlined a card.
MMA fighters will usually have a number of sponsors. However in the UFC fighters are only allowed to wear Reebok apparel due to a deal between Reebok and UFC. The fighters do receive a payment from Reebok but the amount paid is reportedly significantly lower than when the athletes were allowed to wear and promote their own sponsors in the Octagon.
In 2019 the UFC altered their payment structure so that that this apparel payment now also includes media obligations and a fighters code of conduct. The final amount paid is still linked to the number of bouts that a fighter has previously had in the organisation.
Fighters often receive bonuses based on their performance on the night. The value of the bonus depends on the promotion. Usually these bonuses are used as a way to encourage exciting fights, knockouts, and submissions.
The UFC currently offer a “fight of the night” and “performance of the night” bonuses for fighters. The bonuses are typically awarded to 4 fighters. The bonuses are discretionary and sometimes more/fewer bonuses have been awarded at events depending on the action on the night. The UFC bonus is currently $50k.
Other promotions offer bonuses that are also based on encouraging exciting bouts. In One Championship one of the listed criteria for receiving a bonus is whether or not a fighter has been deemed to “demonstrate an incredible warrior spirit”.
Not all bonuses are disclosed. In some cases, promotions have been known to pay bonuses that are not publicly shared.
Top Paying Promotions
There are hundreds of MMA promotions but only a few that can afford to run cards exclusively feature professional fighters. Here is a breakdown of some of the top paying MMA promotions in the world.
The UFC is the largest and most successful MMA promotion in the world. In 2018 the UFC was sold for approximately $4 billion to WME-IMG. Over the years the UFC has acquired a number of different MMA promotions and is without doubt the home to the biggest stars in the sport.
The UFC currently has a 5 year deal with ESPN that see’s them broadcast the majority of their events on ESPN and ESPN’s streaming platform ESPN+. The ESPN deal is thought to be worth approximately $150 million a year and solidifies the UFC’s position at the top of the MMA world.
Top Salary: $3 Million
Lowest base salary: $10k
Bellator are the next biggest promotion after the UFC. They are partially owned by the media giant Viacom which see’s their content broadcast on a number of channels including MTV2 and Paramount. They also have a deal with global streaming service DAZN.
Quintin ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Chael Sonnen are perhaps the biggest stars of the organisation and receive a base salary of $300,000 for their fights .
At the Bellator 192 it was revealed that 16 fighters made $2,000 or less in show money. The Beallator owner Scott Croker explained that this is because they typically use local fighters when they do a regional show. By doing this Bellator claim they are giving opportunities to local fighters, who otherwise would not get a chance to feature in a big event and make any decent money at all.
Top salary: $300k
Lowest base salary: $1.2k
ONE is Asia’s largest mixed martial arts promotion. Fighter salaries in Asia are not publicly disclosed and info on their payment structure is not widely available. One are still a relatively young promotion but have experienced growth as a result of series of financing rounds. Variety previously suggested the company could be worth close to $1 billion but this figure seems to be slightly inflated.
In 2018 the organisation announced the singing’s of Demetrius Johnson and Eddie Alvarez. These two signings are by far the biggest stars to ever be singed to the promotion and both fighters will surely be expecting to receive a salary that at least matches the UFC’s offer. Previous to these signings Ben Askren was the promotions biggest star and revealed that he received $50k show, $50k win.
Top salary: Unknown
Lowest base salary: $1.5k
Cage Warriors & BAMMA
Cage Warriors & BAMMA are two of Europe’s largest and most successful MMA promotions. They hold numerous events in Europe and the Middle East every year. Fighters such as Conor Mcgregor and Michael Bisping fought previously for Cage Warriors. Starting pay in these promotions will typically be less than $1k base.
Top base salary: Approx $7k
Lowest base salary: <$1k
When people see the fighter salaries that are released by the athletic state commissions they often fail to realize the costs that fighters have in order to prepare for a fight. Living the life of a full time athlete is expensive. In the top promotions MMA fighters are treated as contractors and the majority of their costs are covered by the athlete.
A UFC athlete will typically do an intensive 8-12 week camp in preparation for an upcoming fight. During this time a fighter might have to pay for a nutritionist, physiotherapist, BJJ and wrestling coach and all the other costs in that period. A athlete may need to travel for their camp and pay for accommodation for themselves and their team. Over the 8-12 weeks the cost of a camp can run into thousands of dollars.
The figures reported by the UFC are typically a gross amount that does not take into account taxation. The exact amount of tax a fighter will have to pay can often depend on the event location. For example if the fight takes place in Brazil a fighter can expect to lose approximately 27% of his salary in taxation.
Similarly in the US, the amount of taxation a fighter pays depends on the state where the bout takes place. In 2018 Stipe Miocic publicly said he was not interested in competing on the UFC 226 New York card because “A lot of taxes,“lots of taxes”.
Highest Paid MMA fighters
The top athletes in the sport typically get a number of additional benefits on top of their base salary. For the biggest pay per view cards the top fighters will usually receive a percentage of the overall PPV buys that the show does. Depending on the success of the show this amount can often far outweigh the contracted base salary that fighter can expect to earn.
Here is a list of some of the highest paid MMA athletes of all time.
Conor Mcgregor earned a disclosed paycheck of $100 million for his exhibition match with Floyd Mayweather. His base UFC salary is a much more modest at $3 million dollars. His total earnings for a fight however are thought to be well in excess of this amount when you include PPV % points and sponsorship bonuses.
For his own performance at UFC 229 Mcgregor said that he was expecting to make approximately $50 million.
Mcgregor has a number of sponsors including Reebok, Burger King, and his own whiskey brand Proper 12. He is without doubt the highest earning MMA athlete of all time. Opponents who face him are typically rewarded with a significant boost to what they previously earned. This is what Mcgregor famously referred to as Red Panty night.
Base Salary:$3 million
Sponsors: Monster, Reebok, Burger King, Proper 12
Ronda Rousey is the first true female global MMA star. She is now signed with the WWE and is most likely earning a multiple of what she did in the UFC. Rousey is a true pioneer for female MMA and her marketability has yet to be matched by any other female star.
In her last fight at UFC 207 Ronda earned a salary of $3,030,000 that ties her with Conor Mcgregor. Rousey’s purse for this fight was 30x times greater than her opponent Amanda Nunes. This clearly shows that Rousey is in a league of her own when it comes to female MMA salaries.
Base Salary:$3 million
Sponsors:Monster, Reebok, P&G
Jon Jones is widely hailed as the best P4P fighter on the planet. He has over 20 fights in the UFC Octagon and has only one loss by way of a controversial DQ.
Despite failed drug tests and a slew of negative publicity, Jones is still one of the top earners in the sports. He most likely earns a % of PPV sales and has a had a number of high profile sponsors over the years including Nike.
For his fight at UFC 235 Jon earned a base pay of $500k and n win bonus.
Base Salary: $500k
Sponsors:GAT sports, Reebok
Brock Lesnar has only ever competed in 9 MMA bouts. Despite this he is one of the highest MMA fighters of all time due to pro wrestling fame.
At UFC200 he set then then MMA record for fight purses when he earned $2,500,000 for his match with Mark Hunt. In the same year it was reported that he was among the highest earning WWE stars.
Base Salary: $2.5 million
Daniel Cormier is one current heavy wight champ of only two people to old multiple UFC belts at the same time. Despite being nearly 40 years of age Cormier is still one of the top earners in the sport and arguably the best P4P fighter in the UFC.
DC is known as a excellent promoter of fights and his ability on the mic has also landed him a commentating role with the UFC.
His biggest ever payday came when he faced Jon Jones at UFC 214 where he received a cool $1 million. His normal base pay is $500k.
Like nearly all professional sports there are a select few that earn well above the rest of the pack. These athletes salaries are multiples of the average fighter. Fans often do not realize that many MMA fighters will have other jobs and may struggle to pay their bills. Fans also do not realize the cost of being a full time athlete when they think about how much money do MMA fighters make?
There is also a greater degree of risk in MMA which means that fighters need to earn their money in a shorter window of time. If you lose two or more fights in a row in the UFC there is a good chance that you could be cut from the roster. When this happens to an athlete their ability to earn is significantly reduced. From here it is a long way back to earning any kind of decent money.